Yesterday we studied the difference between indicative and imperative statements. As far as God is concerned, we’ve been crucified with Christ and are now reigning with him in heaven—That’s indicative. Now we need to let that change us in our daily lives—That’s a command.
As you read the N.T. letters, especially Paul’s, you’ll see this pattern emerging: “X is true, therefore you need to do Y.” We’ve been justified (declared not guilty in God’s court), so now we need to cooperate with him in the area of becoming like Christ. This lifelong process is called sanctification. Literally it means “setting apart.” You were set apart for Christ positionally at the moment of salvation. He’s laid claim to you, and the Enemy's lost you for all time. Because of--and starting with--that one moment, the Lord's begun the process of setting you apart in how you live.
Today’s passage is a great example of what I’m talking about. When you’re studying the Bible, by the way, take note of the prepositions. Every word of God to us has been preserved for a reason, including “therefore,” “Since then,” “For,” etc. Notice the sentence structure here: Because you’ve been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Notice that the process of becoming like Christ begins with your thought life. Your actions and words will follow your thought life sooner or later. It starts with saturating your mind with God’s truth. It’s just like yesterday, where Paul told us to consider ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God.
Then you put to death what belongs to your sinful nature, such as sexual immorality, greed, lust, etc. You also need to rid yourself of bad habits which the world tends to celebrate, such as malice, slander, and filthy language and (unjust) anger. What’s the next step? Well, it’s a law of physics as well as in the spiritual realm: Nature abhors a vacuum. You can’t just remove things from your life and expect it to improve. You have to “take off” the bad stuff and “put on” the good stuff, like compassion, kindness, humility, patience and forgiveness.
So how do I do this? Well, the first step is in studying God’s word on a regular basis. And no, listening to a sermon on Sunday morning does not qualify as “a regular basis.” We studied before how his word changes us, and there’s no growth without it.
Second there’s obviously prayer. You need to spend some one-on-one time with him, talking to him as well as listening—actually most of us probably need to listen a lot more than we talk. You need to ask him to point out areas of your life that need to be surrendered to him, and ask for his help in changing.
Third, you have to—you absolutely must—utilize the Church. Christ has given us his body to provide what we need: encouragement, accountability, and challenge. Most of the time that’s his method for pointing out cracks in my armor.
And finally you have to take the practical steps to change. If you have a problem with alcoholism, then set up an accountability partner to keep you sober. Stay clear of bars and other places where you drink. Way too often we treat sin like a sexy ex-girlfriend, someone we keep on our speed dial just in case we change our mind later. No, we need to treat it like a mortal enemy that’s stalking us.
If you were looking for some secret magical formula, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I just want to make something clear, though. I’m just as much a work in progress as any of you. My sins might be different than yours, but they’re no less serious. Now if you don’t mind, I need to go practice some of what I've preached. . .
Lord Jesus, from beginning to end I need you. I need you to save me, to guide me, to protect me, and to change me. Only you can do that. Just show me what I need to do, and please give me what I need to do it.
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