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Radical Reform

Colossians 3:5-6
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (NIVUK)

New life in Christ is incompatible with the old life outside of Christ: that old way of living is fundamentally opposed to His authority.  Because He died to pay the penalty for that rebellion, all those who have been released from condemnation must not return to rebellion.  The earthly nature puts a high value on money, sex and power - all good and God designed, but when desired or used wrongly they provide self-satisfaction rather than God-glorification.  Gifts of God are twisted; they are out of control and become idols - motivated by sinful cravings, the lust of the eyes and pride (1 John 2:16).  

When believers take the time and trouble to assess their lifestyles, the Holy Spirit will convict their hearts as they recognise how deeply they offend Christ.  The godly response is godly sorrow which is designed to lead the honest person to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).  That is always the first step, followed by radical changes of behaviour and lifestyle.  Seeing the obsessions of immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed as personal idols will help us to understand that we are worshipping them, and therefore we cannot worship the Lord.
Although we should dispose of all ungodliness in response to the love of God, hardened hearts often need a severe warning.  Paul provides a two-part challenge.  Firstly, he identifies the various forms of immorality as being idolatry.  That is, self-satisfaction becomes a god to be worshipped (thought about, talked about, spending time and money on it).  And all such idols are offensive to God.  As He says in Isaiah 42:8, "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols."  God does not tolerate idols or enter into dialogue or peace treaties with those who worship them (Isaiah 59:1-2).  And secondly, God's intolerance of idols will result in His wrath coming to those who love them (Ezekiel 20:8).
This sort of language may seem very stark.  But it is true to God's character.  Wherever the warnings are ignored in the church (for this letter is not written to pagans but to Christians), the Name of Christ is shamed.  The gospel of Christ cannot be productive where believers are playing games with the world's agenda.  And because wilful souls instinctively fear God's wrath, they have no joy, peace, purpose or hope.  They become a liability to the church, a slur on the gospel and risk Divine action against them (1 Corinthians 10:1-14).  These verses were written to such people.  If you are one of them, today is a very good day to decide that the idols must go.

Holy God. Thank You for clearly expressing Your hatred of ungodly passions and the idolatry they represent. I confess the ease with which I consider my fleshly desires as natural and normal; appetites which I must satisfy. Please forgive me for putting them before the authority of Christ in my life. I know I have to make a radical decision to put them away, and I ask for Your help in putting my decisions into action. May I learn wisdom as I fear the wrath of the Lord and practise obedience to Your Word. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams