Unfortunately, the “worldly way” mindset or pattern of behavior that we’ve been studying in this series is so engrained on the collective human psyche that it’s not humanly possible to eradicate it completely. John Calvin, sixteenth century theologian and reformer, calls it “total depravity” which is the doctrine that “human nature is thoroughly corrupt and sinful as a result of the Fall” as in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned. While that may sound overly harsh to some, Calvin is not implying that every single thing we do is “totally” depraved. However, there are fleshly or carnal desires that reside deep within all of us. We may not always act on them, but they’re still there. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, calls it our “earthly nature”.
“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. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:5-10 NIV
This is from the New International Version of the Bible, a translation. In other translations it refers to “members which are upon the earth” (KJV) or “parts of your life that belong to the earth” (CEB) rather than “earthly nature”. I know this is a little bit confusing, but if you go to the original Greek that this is written in it is literally, “the members, the ones on the earth”, meaning the parts, or better yet, the behaviors of your life that are associated with being worldly. The Greek word for “members” is μέλη (melē or melos) which also refers to arms and legs. What we call “limbs” of the body or “prehensile appendages”. (Wow, Robby’s using big boy words.) But Paul is not just talking about just the physical body that is used to do those bad things that are listed in this passage. He’s also referring to our “nature”, internal psychological makeup, or innate mental characteristics. When he says, “you used to walk in these ways” he’s talking about patterns of behavior which includes a specific way of thinking, or mindset that we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks.
Notice that he doesn’t say “whatever belongs to your Godly nature”. He’s clearly referring to a specific type of behavior or mindset that can provoke the “wrath of God”. He wants us to put to death or totally eradicate those things, members, or ways of living that belong to our “earthly” or “worldly”
Paul also refers to the “old self” in this passage. Other translations call it the “old man”. He’s not referring to an elderly person. Again, it’s about an old mindset and way of living, specifically from an earthly, worldly, or sinful perspective. However, towards the end of the passage Paul says that we have to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator”. This “renewal” process or “putting on the new self” begins in the mind and is to be done in a specific way according to the “knowledge” or “image” of it’s creator. In other words, it’s supposed to be done God’s way, not ours or according to our “earthly nature”.
Okay moving on.
For a moment let’s go back to John Calvin’s “total depravity” that probably comes primarily from Biblical passages like Romans 3:10-18 which is a list or series of statements that says, “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” It’s not a pretty picture, is it? However, out of all that “depravity”, there is hope. This isn’t the end of the story. There is a path of redemption that God has for us. In Romans 5:8-10 Paul says, “But, God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”
WOW!!! If that doesn’t get your blood pumping nothing will. This is the greatest usage of a conjunction in history. For those like me that forget about grammatical terminology, a conjunction is a word that can be used to dramatically change tense or mood. And the word “but” definitely changes the tone or mood of this conversation. We were totally depraved “But God…” We were lost and slaves to sin “But God…” I can go on and on, but this is the moment when we should be raising our hands in praise and pumping our fists in victory. We were a train wreck with no hope “But God” shows up every time we cry out to Him and is willing to dramatically change the the narrative. He wants to save us from our “old self”. Whenever we’re ready and willing to leave all that earthly and worldly mess behind and start “putting on the new self”, God is always graciously willing and “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”. (Ephesians 3:20)
Of course, I’m talking about salvation. And unfortunately because of our “earthly nature”, we can’t save ourselves despite what the world thinks. We need help if we’re going to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature or kick this worldly mind set and pattern of behavior to the curb. We’re going to need a high-powered intervention, a deliverer, a Savior. Someone that can do what we cannot, and that is Jesus! He is “the way, the truth, and the life” according to John 14:6. In fact, He is the only way because Jesus ends this verse by saying, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” While there are multitudes who either deny or refuse to acknowledge the exclusivity of this statement, there is no other way to redemption. He’s the “only way” that is available. God hasn’t provided any other alternatives. But let me be clear, this one way or path to redemption is available to ALL who seek it. EVERYONE!
Let’s go back to Romans 3. In verse 12, it says that “all have turned away”. Later in verse 23 it says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, but in verse 24 it says that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Even though ALL have fallen short or turned away, ALL can be justified and redeemed, which is great news, right? However, while all have the opportunity, not all will choose “the way, the truth, and the life”. Many would rather settle for a humanistic, flawed, and cheap imitation. According to Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 this way or path is narrow, and few find or choose it. It’s available to all, but not everyone wants it. God is “not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), but the reason humanity has such a hard time choosing this way of Jesus can be found in passages like 2 Peter 3:9. There is one word-one thing that so many just can’t get over or passed. “It” is a requirement or a “catch” that can become a stumbling block to salvation.
In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Remember that the worldly way or living according to our “earthly nature” is all about “doing what is right in our own eyes”. So self denial, surrendering, or giving up what we want for something or someone else runs completely contrary to our nature. Again, God does not stand in our way with regards to salvation. The path is wide open, but we get in our own way. Our “way” is the problem and ultimately what is blocking us from salvation. In Luke 13:3 Jesus uses the same word when He says, “unless you repent, you too will all perish”. Without “it” there is no forgiveness and no salvation just as there is no forgiveness or salvation for those who refuse to “deny themselves”. Jesus’ words, not mine.
You probably already know what “it” is. The “catch” or requirement that is included in passages like Luke 13:3 and 2 Peter 3:9 for salvation is “repentance”. Repentance in the Greek is μετάνοιαν (metanoian). It means a “change of mind”, a “change in the inner man”. It is a 180-degree reversal from one way of thinking to another. It is also a way of putting to death or killing off the old self to make way for the new.
There are some that don’t like the word “catch’ or condition when talking about salvation. But there is a condition in Matthew 16:24, Luke 13:3, 2 Peter 3:9, and other Biblical passages. In fact, 2 Peter 3:9 has another conditional word in it, “unless”. “Unless you repent, you too will all perish”. “Unless” we do this then that is going to happen.
“Now wait a cotton-picking minute there Robert. I thought God’s love was unconditional.” Well, It is. God “loves” us unconditionally whether we choose to repent or not, but if we want to be reconciled, redeemed, forgiven, and declared righteous through the blood of Christ we have to repent, deny ourselves, submit, and surrender our will for His. We have to give up our “old self” and put on the “new”. But, God doesn’t stop loving us if we don’t. Yes, there are consequences when we don’t, but again He doesn’t stop loving us. My dad didn’t stop loving me because I chose to disobey, but there were consequences. Otherwise I would have just run amok. My life was better because of what my parents required.
Okay, so when we repent do we have to be perfect or have everything fixed or worked out before we can be saved or receive God’s salvation? Well, let’s go back to Romans 5:8 where the Apostle Paul answers that quite clearly. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Again, that’s great news, but again it’s not the end of the story. God knows we’re not perfect, but God doesn’t want us to remain sinners or continue to live in a “worldly way”. He wants to change ALL that through His plan of salvation. Salvation is a process that comes in three stages: justification, sanctification, and glorification. We will look at that a little more closely next week, but sanctification in particular is God’s way of purifying, sanctifying, and purging us from the “old self” or “old man” and transforming us into the “new self”.
I know this is repetitive, but repetition is the “mother of all learning”. That’s why Bible study like this is SO important. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV) According to the “worldly way”, there is no truth. Truth is relative. This mindset or way of thinking has become so prevalent today, even in churches, but we mustn’t be deceived or led astray by it.
In John 17:15-17 Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (NIV) This “truth” Jesus speaks of that sanctifies us is found in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It isn’t just “a truth” or “one truth”. It is the “only truth” by which everything else is measured. And according to 2 Peter 1:3 it is “everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV) I don’t worship the book. I worship the God of the book.
As I’m writing this today, I really feel like I’m “in the zone”. The Lord is just flooding my mind with all of these scriptures that I have learned over the years. It’s really exciting, but kind of like drinking water from a fire house. I can hardly keep up. I actually started laughing a few minutes ago because I’m like “Lord, slow down. I can’t type that fast!”
Have a great Memorial Day weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC