A year and a half ago, a man who was driving at a pretty fast clip plowed his vehicle into a parked police car. Fortunately, no one was inside the patrol car, and there were no injuries. But how did this happen? Did the driver black out? Was he changing the radio station or adjusting his child’s car seat? Sadly, no. The driver confessed that he crashed into the police car because he was playing a “dumb game” on his phone. The game was Pokemon GO—an interactive game that taps into your phone’s GPS. So his eyes were on his phone, trying to get to the next “Pokestop” and rack up more points.
The game was a massive fad in 2016, and almost immediately after its release, law enforcement officers began to notice an increase in traffic collisions due to distracted drivers playing this silly game. One research study recently estimated that, in a five-month period, Pokemon GO contributed to over 145,000 traffic accidents, over 29,000 injuries and some 256 fatalities. Here’s the moral of the story: Looking DOWN at something fake and temporary instead of looking UP at what is real and lasting can lead to a whole lot of hurt.
In Colossians 2, the Apostle Paul warned us to steer clear of false teachers who try to get us to take our eyes off Jesus Christ by drawing us into manmade religious systems that are cheap and temporary. In time, it will become clear that all of these philosophies and religions are as unsatisfying as a game of Pokemon GO. Jesus Christ has something so much better for us—if we’d just look up.
In Chapter 3, Paul begins by talking a bit about life and death, and it can get confusing. He writes in verse 1 that we “have been raised with Christ.” The clear implication is that we’ve been raised from death. Before someone becomes a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, he’s basically dead to God. And the reason for that boils down to a simple 3-letter word: S-I-N. Because of sin, we are spiritually dead, without hope of ever being raised. But with God, all things are possible.
When we invite Jesus Christ into our lives, God forgives us, pulls us out of the grave and makes us alive with Christ. Every Christian’s spirit has been raised from death to life by Christ. But look at verse 3: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Then, in verse 5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” Wait a minute! I thought Paul said Christ made us alive. Why is he saying that we’re dead again? I’m a Christian. So, once I was dead. But Jesus made me alive. But at the same time part of me died. And today I’m supposed to put part of myself to death. Huh?
Here’s the bottom line: Every person on earth is dead and alive at the same time. If you have not been saved by Christ, your spirit is dead to God, but your sinful nature is alive and in charge. But if you have been saved by Christ, your sinful nature is dead, but your spirit is alive, with Christ in charge.
So, Paul is teaching us to make sure that our sinful nature stays dead. You see, it’s like those zombies in “The Walking Dead.” Every single day our sinful nature’s corpse pops up and tries to pull us down into the grave with it. So, we have to crucify the sinful nature every single day.
Paul goes on to list five sins of our old nature that we must “put to death.” These five sins can be categorized as sensual sins: sexual Immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. These sins are part of the old you—your old nature that you shoved in the grave—and they will always drag you down. And in verses 8-10, Paul lists six more sins that can be categorized as social sins: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying. These may not seem like a big deal, but make no mistake: if we practice them, they’ll corrupt our minds and drag our spirits back down into the grave.
If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ—if he is truly in the driver’s seat of your life—then your old nature has been killed off and buried. And since it’s been killed off and buried, there’s no place in our lives for the 11 sins that Paul lists in verses 5-10. But we can’t keep that sinful nature in the grave on our own. We must approach our lives, every day, with our minds and our hearts looking up—focused on him.
Although most Christians guard against these 11 sensual and social sins, we often fail to guard ourselves against thinking like the world and prioritizing like the world. We gripe and complain about our churches and worship services because they don’t cater to our personal preferences. But setting our minds and hearts on Christ means asking: What does Christ want? What does he desire? What are his priorities? What will bring him pleasure, honor and glory? When we stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on and prioritizing these God-given, heavenly priorities, Jesus Christ is so, so pleased with us.
Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.