James C. Denison
Tonight on the Discovery Channel a documentary will air claiming that the burial boxes of Jesus and his family have been discovered. James Cameron, director of Titanic and The Terminator, is one of the makers of the film. He’s dealing with ossuaries, burial boxes found in Jerusalem 27 years ago. He claims that the inscriptions on the sides show that Jesus was buried here along with his wife, Mary Magdalene, and their son Judah. His mother Mary and brother Joseph are supposed to have been buried here as well.
Archaeologists have been quick to attack this ridiculous claim, one of them the expert who first found the ossuaries. He points out that Cameron has absolutely no proof for his allegations and that other scholars dismissed this thesis years ago. But it all makes for good marketing during the Lenten season.
If Cameron is right, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Then he isn’t the Son of God, and Christianity is false. If he is right, the first Christians, eyewitnesses to the risen Christ 20 centuries ago, are wrong. There is no explanation for the non-biblical records which document that the first Christians believed that Jesus rose from the grave. More than a million people died for a claim they knew to be a lie. There is no explanation for the miraculous birth and growth of the church.
There’s an even easier way to know that Cameron is wrong and that Jesus is alive today. When the “God is dead” controversy started in the 1960’s, someone asked Billy Graham what he thought. “God isn’t dead,” he replied with a smile–“I just talked with him this morning.”
God still speaks, in prayer and in Scripture. If we will put his revelation into practice in our lives, we’ll learn that the Bible really is true. Its claims really do work. Our lives really are blessed when we lead them as God directs. Let’s learn how to be holy in every relationship of our lives, and what happens when we are.
Refuse sexual sin
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” This is a present tense imperative, intended for us all. The tense is active–something we must do. God cannot do this for us and yet honor our free will.
We must put these sins “to death,” not just out of the way to be considered later. Something must die–these sins, or us. Either we kill the cancer, or it kills us.
Now we come to the vice list, five words which all relate to sexual sin.
The first is “sexual immorality,” porneia in the Greek. Any kind of sexual activity outside marriage and outside God’s will. Premarital sex, extramarital sex, prostitution, pornography–all such acts are included here.
Next is “impurity”–the word relates to immoral thoughts and the decision to act on them.
Next is “lust,” “passions” in the Greek. The word relates to emotions, feelings.
Next comes “evil desires,” immoral desires and longings.
Last is “greed, which is idolatry.” In this context, wanting something sexual which we should not have. Wanting a person or a picture, an act or a relationship.
Immoral acts come from immoral thoughts, which comes from immoral emotions, which come from immoral desires, which comes from immoral temptations. We are tempted–we want this–we feel it–we think about it–we choose it. Such sins lead to the “wrath” and judgment of God (v. 6). Before we decided to follow Jesus, we “used to walk in these ways” (v. 7). But now we must follow them no more. We must “put them to death” today.
You can do this, or God would not tell you to.
People sometimes ask more of us than they should. The voice instructor who insisted that I take his class in college wasted his time and mine. The tragic episode reminds me of the farmer who paid for singing lessons for his pig–it just cost him money and made the pig mad. People often ask more than we can do.
But God does not. The inventor knows his invention. Nowhere does Scripture command us to save our souls, because we cannot. It does not tell us to earn our salvation, because that’s impossible. Whatever it does tell us to do, we can do. So, you and I can do this. We can “put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.”
God will empower us, if we will choose to do this. He will tax the last grain of sand and star in the sky to help us. But the first step is ours. Where are you being tempted by sexual sin today?
Refuse spoken sin
The other category about which Paul warns us is just as deadly, though far less public: “now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other” (vs. 8-9a). From sexual sins to spoken sins.
The list grows in ascending order:
Stage one is “anger,” bitterness we will not release.
Stage two is “rage”–a “burning anger which flares up and burns with intensity,” to define the Greek term. From bitterness to anger–the simmering pot boils over.
Stage three is “malice,” the decision and intention to hurt the other person.
Stage four involves “slander” and “filthy language,” when we speak words which put our malice into effect. We belittle and attack with our words.
Finally comes stage five, where we “lie to each other” (v. 9a). From unkind words we progress to out-and-out falsehoods in our desire to hurt the other. “To each other” shows that the problem existed in the Christian community, not just the larger society.
All of this is so unnecessary, since we have already put off this “old self” when we asked Christ into our lives (v. 9b). We have put on the “new self,” which he is renewing in his image every day (v. 10). He does this for us all, no matter our background or story: Greek or Jew, Hebrew or Gentile; barbarian (uneducated), Scythian (savage), slave or free–“Christ is all, and is in all” (v. 11). We are all the family of God. I am your brother–you are my brothers and sisters.