3 Miracles of a Christian's Life

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 11/4/2018

This morning I want to talk about three miracles that mark a Christian’s life. I call these “miracles”, because it really is exceptional when Christ takes hold of a person. But for us to really see/appreciate these miracles, we need to take a candid look at a few verses in Colossians 3, and consider what they tell us about human nature.

First, we’re imperiled by evil desires. In Colossians 3:5-7 Paul says, “Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, 7 and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.”

A Biblical perspective on the heart is that our hearts are evil. The heart is governed by a nasty cocktail of rival desires. Some of the desires Paul mentions here are “sexual immorality, impurity, lust/covetousness, evil desires, and greed/idolatry.” These desires are so pervasive, they touch every human being. Nobody is without sin. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?”

The KJV translates this, “desperately wicked… the heart is desperately wicked.” Apart from God, this is the only state in a heart CAN find itself. Desperate! Depressed! Anxious! Worried! Whipped into a frenzy! Why is the heart desperate? Because it’s trying to fill a God shaped void—it’s trying to find purpose, meaning, satisfaction apart from God. Here the soul was created by Christ, through Christ, for Christ… but now it’s trying to exist unto itself, and sustain itself, and it’s so sad to watch!

Have you ever seen a heart desperately set on sexual immorality? Have you ever seen a heart so conflicted, it cannot choose “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—whatever is excellent or praiseworthy…” But if a thing is impure! Have you ever seen a heart so empty, it must possess everything everyone else has? The Bible calls this lust/covetousness. A person must have his neighbor’s house, car, livelihood, lifestyle, career husband/wife, Facebook perfect family. A covetous heart is never content, grateful! Have you ever seen a heart set on evil desires? It lacks “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control/restraint.” Have you ever seen a heart set on greed/idolatry? 1 Timothy 6 :10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” For money, people will sell their soul.

At one time, every one of us was governed by this nasty cocktail of raging desires. By the way, modern psychology denies the reality of sin/evil. Maybe you remember a guy named Abraham Maslow? He theorized that all behavior is driven by a hierarchy of morally neutral desires.

A person is the way they are because they have unmet physiological needs (food, water, shelter, clothing). They have unmet security needs (they don’t have job security, don’t own property, don’t have savings). They have unmet social needs—they don’t feel a sense of love/belonging. They have unmet esteem needs—they need attention, recognition, promotion, more autonomy. They aren’t realizing their full potential or becoming self-actualized. There aren’t any “evil” desires to speak of, just needs. If we would give people what they need, they’d evolve to the best version of themselves.

Have you ever noticed you can give a person everything they “need” yet strangely their heart remains desperately wicked? Adam and Eve lacked nothing, yet still chose evil. You can take it a step further. You can fulfill even a person’s evil desires, for sexual immorality, impurity, lust, greed… and they only become greater monster.

First, we’re imperiled by evil desires. But then second, we’re imperiled by evil behavior. So important you catch this principle: Behind every kind of evil behavior is an unfulfilled desire. What happens when a person is governed by sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry? Are you ready for this? Colossians 3:8-10, “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another. . .” Friend, why are so angry all the time? Why so much hostility? Why are you so cruel toward your spouse, kids, boss, coworkers, neighbors, strangers? Why doesn’t anything good ever come out of your mouth? Why all the little lies?

I’m continually struck by Colossians 1:21 where Paul says, “Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions.” The desperation of the heart always boils over into evil behaviors. Desperate hearts, desperate actions. In Matthew 15:18-20 Jesus says, “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander. These are the things that defile a person…”

First, we’re imperiled by evil desires. Then we’re imperiled by evil behavior. But look where Paul takes us next! We’re imperiled by damaged relationships. Colossians 3:11 Paul says, “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” So what does this mean? It means that outside of Christ all our differences metastasize and become cancerous. Because there is no true moral guilt, no truly evil desires (just unmet needs), there is no truly evil behavior, and therefore I’m not really responsible for myself or the damage my evil behavior has done to others… no I’m just part of a never-ending hierarchy of victimization spanning all the way back to Adam/Eve. In a world of victims, there is no guilt, no “I’m sorry,” no “forgiveness”, no reconciliation, no redemption, no need for Christ’s death-burial-resurrection, sacrifice, justification, sanctification, hope of glory.

In the Bible, there is no theology of victimization. The only true victim in Scripture, the only true innocence, is God Himself, Christ Jesus the Son. But as for the rest of us, we aren’t victims, we’re sinners. Sinners whose hearts have become filled with every kind of evil desire. Sinners whose behavior has become increasingly evil. Sinners who because of our own desperate wickedness, have left a trail of relational destruction a mile wide in the wake of our anger, rage.

What happens is that our desires begin to rule us, control us. Our behavior becomes unmanageable and toxic. Our relations become more damaged, more dysfunctional, more dark, more divided, more destructive. So what do you suppose the three miracles might be?

Miracle Number One: New Desires! Colossians 3:3-5, “Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, 7 and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.” Your heart needs a bigger “therefore.” Your heart needs a greater reason, a greater desire, a greater affection. Until Christ becomes your greater affection, and pleasing him your deepest hunger, you will always be a walking time bomb. You will always be sabotaged by your dark side. Right when you think you are about to ascend, there you’ll go again. A dog returns to its own vomit: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:1, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above (set heart), where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

Miracle Number Two: New Behavior! Colossians 3:6-10, “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.” When your heart is no longer desperate, your behavior stops becoming so desperate. The behavioral change Paul describes is best captured in Colossians 3:2-4, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Miracle Number Three: New Relationships! Colossians 3:11, “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” Instead of relationships being defined by hierarchies of victimization, relationships become defined by grace. Galatians 3:26-28, “through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. 27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I want you to notice the key to true transformation in Christ. Wayward preachers and teachers (and Oprah) will tell you that to experience healing, you must learn how to love yourself. But Jesus says you must die to self. Those old governing desires must be put to death, not fanned to fully flame. Those old destructive behaviors, behaviors fueled by evil desires or unmet needs, must be put to death. Those old categories of hurt, pain… victimizer or victim… those well-tread classifications that have been a crutch, keeping us from moving toward reconciliation/forgiveness… male/female, slave /free, Jew/Gentile, circumcised/uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian. . republican/democrat, liberal/conservative, black/white, citizen/non-citizen, legal/illegal, insider/outsider. No, we become “one in Christ.”

The true Christian life begins with a funeral. You must die. This is one of the most significant and least emphasized aspects of baptism. When you die, you are no longer governed by old desires, no longer governed by old behaviors, old relational hostilities. When you die the old order of your life dies, is buried. And what God raises up is a wholly new person in whom he dwells by his Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! 18 Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.”

Colossians 3:3-4, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Scripture Verses

Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 15:18-20; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Study Questions

  1. Read Colossians 3:12-17. How does Paul describe the characteristics and activities of this new community in verses 12-14? How do each of these reflect Christ's character and promote building loving relationships?
  2. Why does Paul place emphasis on the need for forgiveness in verse 13? What does it mean to forgive? (See Ephesians 4:32.)
  3. Compare Colossians 3:15-17 to Ephesians 5:18-20. What do these two passages teach us about the relationship between the "Word of Christ" and the "Spirit"? Why do we need to be grounded in the Word of Christ if we are to experience the powerful filling of the Spirit?
  4. What does it mean to do everything "in the name of the Lord Jesus"? (See Matthew 21:9; 28:19; Acts 9:28; James 5:14.)
  5. How does singing songs of worship fit into the points that Paul makes in this passage? As a group, how can we encourage one another in putting on these new, loving characteristics?