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Colossians 3:17; Brief thoughts

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

“whatever you do” has served in some cases as a justification for claiming Gospel-centric efforts in every sphere of life. In general, the Christian culture of the western church has used this phrase to point the church to consider everything they do as an opportunity for the gospel. Indeed, “whatever” describes any activity in which one engages. This word can be interpreted very loosely as a simple phrase meaning that any and all activity can be made to be holy. However, considering the context of this particular chapter, “whatever” seems to be a reference to that which was stated in verses 12-16.

As noted in earlier entries on Colossians, verse 12-17 provide an explanation of the marks of a Christian. Paul establishes that the new nature has come and is being conformed to the image of its creator in verse 10 and then explains what Christians do that evidence this reality. In other words, a Christian pursues holiness. Taken in this context, the “whatever” that Paul is speaking of is closely linked to a pursuit of holiness. So it is here that we should take a moment and ponder the divine truth that God begins and completes the work in His people and that the people of God actively pursue a holy life in obedience to His word.

Philippians 1:6 asserts that God began the work of sanctification and that God will complete the work. In Romans 6:16 Paul praises God that the Roman Christians have become obedient from the heart (the obvious implication being that God has wrought that obedience). Yet, the exhortation to pursue holiness remains in Philippians 2 and 3 as well as Romans 6:19-23. The work of sanctification is decisively a divine work that results in human effort. True Christians have been made holy and true Christians pursue becoming holy.

So, whatever actions a believer may undertake in pursuit of that holiness, as they strive to be more Christ-like, it ought to be done in the name of Jesus.

Names matter. When someone knows your name, they know something about you that is a unique identifier. Unlike simple descriptors of appearance, a name offers some modicum of identity and personhood. When we identify someone by another moniker, we de-humanize them. When someone is referred to as “that man” or “the one with brown eyes,” we strip them of their persona and individual uniqueness. Likewise, when we give someone a new name like “Little-John” or “Scrappy,” we are adding to their identity by granting them a new name that is perhaps more fitting. So Paul calls for Christians to find their personal identification in Jesus Christ our Lord.

A believer’s identity is wrapped up in the name and nature of Jesus. When people encounter a Christian, that believer should be so immersed in the pursuit of holiness that people cannot help but associate them with Jesus. In every activity and every discipline that a Christian pursues, a pursuit of living like Jesus must be apparent. Christian, you have been changed! Now live like it.

Some preachers enjoy waxing eloquently that you should be doing all your tasks “as unto the Lord!” Implying that somehow you could drink coffee in your half-awake stupor to the glory of God! While it may be true that you can pursue all activities with holiness as a motivating factor, it is a bit hyperbolic to apply every menial task to the glory of the Almighty. Though in some sense it may be true that believers bring honor to God by living a peaceful and quiet life, it is also true that one could over-think what it means to do everything in the name of the Lord. In short, God is less concerned with whether or not you decide to drink a Dr. Pepper over a Coke than He is that you actually engage your neighbors with the Gospel. So consider what you are actually doing to pursue holiness as you consider this verse. Remember that you have been made holy and are empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to accomplish the work.

Finally, all is to be done with gratitude. The heart of Christian obedience is gratitude. Thankfulness is so critical to the sanctification process that Paul mentions it three verses in a row. In 15-17 Paul inserts the necessity of gratitude in a Christian’s life at the end of each exhortation. True believers do not pursue holiness out of obligation or requisite demand, but out of gratitude for what has already been accomplished. Indeed, this gratitude is precisely what drives a believer to live a holy, gospel-centered life.

Further, when a Christian considers the nature of grace and the mercy of God, they cannot help but be grateful. Such gratitude levels the playing field of community. When life is lived with a full understanding of what God has accomplished in the lives of those who love and serve Him, then there is no basis for arrogant self-exaltation. Understanding that grace is a continuous gift of God in the sanctification of the believer further diminishes any and all self-righteousness. When a person understands that their identity is wrapped up in Christ and that they are empowered by His working in their hearts, then there cannot be a “better than” mentality. Morality becomes something that is a delight for the individual, not an imposition on the community. Do you know this grace? Have you grasped the depth of what Christ has done for you? O Christian, grab hold of this great truth: God has made you holy, is making you holy, and will make you holy. You get to delight in the pursuit of holiness!

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Colossians 3:16; Brief Thoughts

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

If a person believes in a greater authority, then the word of that authority ought to be manifest in the life of that person. It is a reasonable measurement of authenticity to test them by the word of their professed authority. When someone submits to an authority, the word and directives of that authority are evident in their lives. Likewise, the word of Christ is manifest in the lives of those who profess Him as Savior and Lord. So Paul admonishes fellow believers to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (v.16).

The word of Christ should be so ingrained in the heart and life of a believer that it is said to be alive within. Every thought and word that proceeds from the mouth of a believer ought to stem from the indwelling Spirit of the word of God. One of the greatest tragedies in the western church is the severe Biblical illiteracy. The word cannot dwell where it is not read. The average professing Christian in the west does not read their Bible on a daily basis. So pervasive is this truth that many pastors struggle to read even a chapter of the Bible each day. This should not be! True believers in Christ find their very animating breath in the Word of God (c.f. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). When Christians fail to read the word of Christ, they starve themselves of the breath of God and are spiritually suffocating. Alas, we live in a churched culture that values everything but the Word of God and we are watching the degradation of society as a result.

Not only are Christians to fill themselves with the word of God, they are to do so “richly!” By asserting this descriptor, Paul is calling the believer to more than mere engagement with Scripture. He is calling the believer to a feast! Believers do not merely read the word of Christ, they draw their life’s breath from the very word of God. The fullness of a believer’s inner being is found in and through their relationship with the word of Christ.

As the believer embraces the indwelling word, they begin to exhibit some evidence of that word in their life. The word of Christ begins to dictate the things they say and do to one another, leading them to teach and admonish brothers and sisters in Christ through that word. As the heart of a believer matures in their grasp of the word, wisdom will become common in their teaching and encouragement of each other. The beginning of wisdom is the “fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:7, 9:10, and Psalm 111:10). As Christians submit to the word of the Lord in their lives, teaching and admonition pour forth from their mouth. As the word takes root in their heart, the overflow of the heart pours out onto the community around them. One of the greatest joys of Godly community is the unity of Christians as grounded in Scripture. Such a unity that is founded on the grace of Scripture, levels the Spiritual playing field among the community. When Scripture is the source of wisdom, hierarchy ceases to exist. All within the community are subject to the word of Christ indwelling them. So, Christians confront each other in love with the word of God. In beautiful, wise engagement with the community, true Christianity changes the heart of the individual as they engage together with the whole community.

This beauty of community centralized on the word results in a unique expression of singing. Singing is natural for Christians who stand in awe of God. Singing is a response that is birthed in the heart of one who has observed God. Once a person sees God, they cannot help but express something. Singing is the most common of responses for the human heart. The word of Christ, dwelling inside a Christian, will manifest itself in Song. This is why it is not abnormal for Christian communities to sing, produce, and embrace corporate worship in song. Christians sing, so, Christian, sing! And what should we sing? Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. What these terms mean are often debated. Some argue that Christians should only sing the Psalms and that these are the three types of Psalms in the book of Psalms. Others argue that Psalms refers to the Old Testament book, Hymns are dominantly theological, and Spiritual songs tend to be songs that give testimony to God’s work. Still, others explain that these are three different structural designs for musical expression. Whatever the case, the point of this passage is that the word of Christ manifests itself in singing. Indeed, when the heart is lifted to heaven on the wings of the word of Christ, a song will inevitably ensue.

Thankfulness results in as the culmination of a Christian’s abiding in the word of God. Recognizing the depth and greatness of God’s grace, Christians live a life of gratitude and love for God.

Are these manifest in your life? If you claim Christ, then feast deeply on the word of God and these will become the manifest evidences of the indwelling word of Christ!

Colossians 3:14; Brief Thoughts

14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

The distinguishing mark of a believer in Christ Jesus is love. The word used for “love” is the Greek word “agape.” This specific word refers to a love that is self-sacrificing and is focused on the benefit of others. This is a truly divine love modeled by Jesus’ death on the cross. Taking all the sin of man upon Himself, He willingly laid down His own life, suffering death on a cross for the sake of God’s love for us. That is the example of love Christians follow. Christians are to exemplify dying to self so that others can delight in life! Paul explains the nature of Christians’ ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:11-12. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” The love that Paul exhorts Christians to display is intense. It goes beyond feelings and simple displays of affections. This kind of love gives itself over to death for that sake of others. Is there a greater binding power than this kind of love?

The love of Jesus breaks through every barrier and creates a connection that transcends this earth. When Jesus died on the cross, he bore the sins of all mankind on the cross. He bore the sins of all nationalities, all dispositions, all types of people. John states it well when he says that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus’ love does not select types or races of people. Rather, His love breaks through barriers of all types and brings salvation to any who believe. Galatians 3:28 states, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christ has removed all divisions and segregations that mankind has been beholden to.

In considering this kind of love, the church ought to be the place in which every tribe, tongue, and nation brings their own unique expression of worship into the symphony of love for God’s glory and presence. The love of Jesus not only removes all barriers, it also unites those who believe in praise to God. The church should mirror that reality. It is a sad reality that churches in the west do not reflect the variety of God’s creation. Our churches lack diversity and yet we proclaim a love that transcends cultural divides. So, to my brothers and sisters in leadership in the American church, we must do better. We must love well every person in our neighborhood and seek out those who do not have the same cultural background. This is not simply a justice issue! This is more than that. This is a love issue. We cannot rightly display the love of God if we are unwilling to express that love beyond our own race, culture, or creed.

Moreover, those who direct worship must exemplify this kind of love by displaying the various creative methodologies for worship! Incorporate art and poetry into your services. Utilize dance and drama to the display of His glorious might! Paul uses the musical metaphor to describe love here because the display of love is inherently musical to God! As we display His love on this earth, we join the symphony of praise in creation and display His very creative nature. I contend that we can do more! We can express the praise of God through art, speeches, poetry, displays of kindness, giving, service… etc. Explore the avenues to express the love of Christ and do not tie yourself or your people down to songs, prayer, and sermons alone. God is infinitely giving His love, our praise of His glory ought to display that love infinitely!

Notice, this love that has set us free from sin also binds all things together. Indeed, in the end, all things will be bound together by the love of God. As God restores and re-creates the earth in the book of Revelation, all things will be united in worship of His glory. Yet, this unity need not wait in the heart of Christian community. It is possible, now, for the church to mirror such radical culture defying love. As people join the true Christian community through faith in Jesus Christ, that community should so radically reflect the love of Jesus that diversity of culture and expression would be explosively manifest in the church! Let us strive for such a love. A love that transcends all else – the love of Jesus made manifest in His people, revealing the very nature of God to a dying world.

There is much more to say about the implications of the transcendent love as the greatest mark of a Christian. It is not my intention to exhaust the inexhaustible love of God and the subsequent manifestation of that divine attribute. What are some of the implications and applications that you see? Let’s chat about them! Put them in the comments below!

Colossians 3:13, Brief Thoughts

13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

The final three marks of the new nature of a Christian listed in verses 12-14 are identified as longsuffering, forgiveness, and love (in verse 14, to be considered in the next post).

The seventh character trait Paul exhorts Christians to is that of long-suffering. The Christian community ought to be the most welcoming and hospitable group that one can identify with. As believers, Christians have experienced a forgiveness that transcends all reason. They have been forgiven an offense that is so great as to warrant eternal damnation. Further, they were not seeking to be forgiven, nor acknowledging their need for forgiveness (Rom. 3:9-20). Instead, it was lavished upon them by the grace of God (1 John 3:1). In this forgiven state, Christians must recognize that they were in no way better or wiser than another person. Rather, they were enemies of God whom God bore with great patience until the day of their repentance (C.f. Rom. 5:8 and 2 Peter 3:19). In this recognition, there is no one that Christians are incapable of “bearing with.”

Accompanying the long-suffering of a Christian community is forgiveness. True believers forgive. As mentioned with long-suffering, Christians forgive much because they have been forgiven much. Jesus explains that one who recognizes the depth of forgiveness they have received will lavish love and forgiveness upon others because they have experienced it themselves (Luke 7:47). Therefore, a lack of forgiveness might serve as a test of the authenticity of one’s faith. Christians forgive, it is part of their nature to do so.

Living in community together guarantees that there will be conflict. When human beings gather together, whether, for worship, labor, or leisure, there will inevitably be opportunity for sin and subsequent complaint against others within the community. Though in an ideal situation, no one will feel the need to complain against another brother or sister, we live in a sinful world in which ideal situations do not truly exist. When one person is upset by another, there is struggle and frustration. However, God has renewed the spirit of Christians and given them new natures from which Christians can love each other in spite of sinful desires that cause quarrels (James 4). So, Christians ought to be marked by a forgiveness that transcends their own need to be right or their need to fulfill their own desires.

This overcoming of desires in favor of forgiveness is only achievable when the community realizes that God has empowered every individual to forgive the way Christ has forgiven. Consider for a moment what extent of love and forgiveness that Christ has poured out upon those who believe. The eternal Christ made Himself mortal and put on human frailty (Philippians 2:1-11). He lowered Himself from exalted heights to love a people who despise and reject Him (John 13). He lives perfectly, forgives extravagantly, serves humbly, and surrenders Himself to the charges of the wicked, in order to save the lowly. After accomplishing all of that, He grants those who believe in Him a new nature that is clean and then consistently renews that nature after His own image until He completes it (Col. 3:9-10 and Philippians 1:6). This is why Christians must forgive – they have been forgiven.

It is not enough for a Christian to forgive alone. They must forgive in the same way Christ forgave. A Christian’s forgiveness must transcend the simplistic forgiveness that the world affords. The forgiveness of the world is transactional – I’ll forgive A if B is done. The forgiveness of Christ says I’ll forgive A no matter what. The forgiveness of Christ does not complain about past grievances or hold a record of wrongs. The forgiveness of Christ separates the sin from the person as far as east from west. This is a mark of Christianity – the Christian forgives with love. If someone claims Christ, but cannot forgive in this way, then that person needs to examine themselves to see if they really know Christ, for it is by the fruit of our hearts that we testify that He has changed us and that He is our Lord.

Colossians 3:12; Brief Thoughts

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

Having put off the old nature, Christians strive to live the lifestyle of holiness that develops feeds and satisfies their new nature. The phrase translated “put on then” is an exhortation that is based on the assumption that the reader has already been changed.[1] Having removed the death that once enshrouded their soul, Christians ought to put on the new life in Christ. This apparent change of attire is not surprising. As one has removed the old self, the new-self has become the defining wardrobe.

This change of natures is due to God’s choice. Least any reader consider him or herself to be wise and boast in their own strength, Paul reassures us that God is the one who has accomplished the work of salvation and He is also the one who has brought life to the previously dead soul. God has chosen to save and set-apart believers because He loves them. The Creator has deemed that He will love His creation and redeem those who believe simply because they are His (1 John 4:10). If therefore, we have been chosen as His and if we are His holy and beloved, then we will look and behave as such.

Evidence of a changed nature bears obvious manifestation in the actions of interpersonal relationships. When one has become changed and has been given a new nature that is capable of pursuing holiness, they will inevitably become more like Christ. So Paul exhorts the believer to pursue divine love and grace within the context of their relationships.

Let us take the next words slowly, that we may feast on the richness of the exhortation.

First, a believer must recognize that they are “chosen ones, holy and beloved.” Consider for a moment what that means. God saw fit to rescue and set believers apart.[2] He set them apart (“holy”) because they are beloved by Him. God has lavished His love upon His believers. The recognition that God has redeemed and saved Christians by His own will, ought to lead believers to a sense of equality and grace style living as a result. The manifest characteristics that follow are a result of the truth that God has redeemed a lost soul, has changed that soul and has given life to that soul.

Second, believers exhibit compassionate hearts. They have a genuine concern for others. Most often this particular attribute is manifested in the activity of prayer and social action. When a truly converted Christian hears of devastation, they weep. It is, therefore, reasonable to gauge the hearts of a Christian community by their prayer concerns for those who are persecuted (Romans 12:15).

Third, kindness overflows from the compassionate heart. As a believer is confronted with tragedy and difficulty, they will respond in kind acts. A compassionate heart without kindness is hypocritical. Therefore, the genuineness of the heart is made evident in the kind actions of the hands.

Fourth, Christians ought to bear a humble disposition. When a person realizes that salvation is by grace through faith granted from God, then there is no room for haughty self-righteousness. Rather a Christian recognizes that they are no better than the darkest of sinners. There is no room for self-righteous pride in the life of a believer. If any is found, God will certainly sanctify that malady out of the Christian’s life (Hebrews 12:6).

Fifth, the meekness of Christ is evident in the life of a believer. It is evident because Christ lives within. If Jesus’ spirit is indwelling the Christian, the Christian will manifest meekness. They will think of the needs of others first, refuse to dominate or subdue others, and will have a generally gentle and hospitable demeanor.

Sixth, patience is often accepted as a key character trait of Christianity but dismissed because of circumstance. For instance, a Christian will find themselves frustrated with circumstance caused by others and will vent that frustration in unholy gossip or slander. Yet, it is generally accepted that patience is a fruit of the Spirit that ought to characterize a Christian (Galatians 5:22-24). So, the true believer is without excuse for such ventilation. The true Christian ought to bear with circumstances and with others in patience and the evidence of that patience will be a lack of grumbling or complaining (Phil. 2:14).

We will consider the rest of Paul’s list tomorrow.

[1] This verb is in the Aorist Imperative tense. Often aorist imperatives can be understood as delivering an exhortation that is based on a condition apparent from the past. For example: If a man becomes an engineer, goes to school and achieves the degree. The aorist tense imperative might appear when one says, “Let him work in the engineering field.” It is a command based on a condition that became him in the past.

[2] I am not here entering into a discussion of election, though that would be appropriate. That is a long discussion for another passage.

Colossians 3:6-7; Brief Thoughts

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  6On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

The wrath of God is genuinely coming upon the earth. This phrase in verse six ought to give the reader pause. It is a terrifying statement that the wrath of God is coming upon the earth. It is even more terrifying to realize the reason for that wrath. The vices listed as “earthly” are so prominent in modern culture that it is difficult to call anyone innocent of them. Everywhere a person turns, there is sexual immorality and sinfulness driven by base human desires. Our entertainment, politics, and businesses are controlled by wicked and sinful desires. Our world has rejected God as the one who is worthy of worship and has insisted that satisfaction can be achieved by asserting our own definitions of good and evil in place of His. Humanity has rejected Christ as Lord and has decided to determine what is good or evil on our own. Indeed, our own idolatry of self-satisfaction demands recompense from the Almighty Creator. So Paul warns: “the wrath of God is coming.”

Take note that wrath has not yet arrived. There is great hope in this truth. Wrath is not yet here, there is still time for you to repent. There is still time for nations to repent. Wrath has not yet arrived. This simple present tense verb packs within itself a great deal of hope! We have time, though it is short, to call the world to repent and find salvation.

While it has not come upon this world yet, wrath is certain because of these things. Further, this world’s calamity does not compare to the coming wrath of God. Paul was living in an age of paganism. Death and corruption were norms in the Roman empire. So it is here in our time. Political scandals fill our eyes as we strive to hide the wickedness we indulge in ourselves. Even the religious leaders allow themselves indulgences and sinful satisfactions that bring shame to the Lord. Wrath is coming and it will level all of us. God, the perfectly just Judge, will punish every infraction and destroy every idolatrous, law-breaker. Yet, there is a way out of this wrath. Trust in Jesus for your righteousness: confess to God that you have not done what you should do and are in need of Him to forgive you, trust that Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection takes the wrath of God on your behalf and grants you new life. This is how one avoids wrath: through faith in Jesus.

Wrath is coming on this earth because of sin and all those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ will be subject to that wrath. It is important for Christians to remember that we have not been righteous. Christians were enslaved to the same sinful disposition that everyone else is enslaved to. Notice Paul doesn’t just say that Christians were engaged in the characteristics of verse five, but that they “live” that way.

Bearing this in mind, Christians have the unique ability to relate to others. There is no room for arrogance in the life of a believer. Indeed, true believers recognize that they are no greater than anyone else. They have not done the right thing, they have not lived a righteous life. This is the great equalizer. Recognizing that salvation is not due to our works, but only due to faith changes the way we relate to everyone. Christian, make up in your heart that you have been rescued because God is good, not because you are. You did not make a better decision than others. You were rescued, and anyone can be rescued.

Colossians 3:5; Brief thoughts

5Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Throughout his letters, Paul issues instructions pertaining to the Christian life. When modern readers read these instructions, our natural tendency is to read them as corrective commands (e.g. “stop doing what you are doing and do this instead!”). It is easy for the reader to understand these instructions as commands to be fulfilled or something that must be corrected. After all, they are instructions to the Christian life. Yet, all of Paul’s instructions are based on a previously established theological truth about the person he is addressing. These instructions, therefore, are better understood as exhortations or encouragements rather than corrective commands. Paul is not scolding the reader for failing to live up to some sort of law. Rather, Paul is encouraging the believers to live a life that matches the reality of who they are in Christ.

This particular exhortation begins with the encouragement to “put to death.” The word here indicates a complete cessation of activity with regard to that which is “earthly” (v.5). Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (Cost of Discipleship. London: SCM Press, 2001 p44). The Christian life is one of complete surrender to the will and work of Christ. It is an exchange of kingdoms. Believers have traded the glory of this earth for the glory of Heaven. In such an exchange, the kingdom of earth is thrown off for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. So Paul calls the believer to put to death the things that are earthly. Notice there is no softening of this exhortation. He does not say, try to put to death or strive to put to death. No, Paul says “put to death.” This imperative drives the point that Christian is to completely cut off the influence of these earthly things. These earthly things have no place in the Christian life (Ephesians 5:3). They are to be cut off and destroyed. The mind of the Christian and the life of the Christian is focused on Heavenly truths and must have no association with these lower earthly things.

It is the tragedy of modern Christian culture that there is little that differentiates the world from the church. When Christians are supposed to be pointing people toward a radical heavenly mindset, the best that many modern churches offer is simplistic moralism. There is little call to holiness in our pulpits and seldom a demand to turn away from earthly things. Yet, Paul’s call for a heavenly mindset is immediately followed by the complement of rejection of earthly things. Christian, we cannot serve in two worlds. We must recognize that we are “resident aliens” on this earth and we do not and cannot fit into this world’s passions and pleasures. Our Kingdom is far too great to be subject to such base desires.

Paul provides us a list of that which is “earthly” for the reader to identify. Interestingly, each word has some connection to sexuality. The first word is “pornea” where we get our word porn from. In our sex-saturated culture, there is little need for elaboration on this subject. Pornography is one of the greatest blights on the soul of man in modern times. It has shaped the way our culture views women, marred the nature of man and degraded the value of sexuality in the human spirit. Our modern struggles with sexual harassment, gender identity, and gender toxicity can be directly linked to the hidden obsession with this idolatrous activity. This practice of sexual immorality must NOT be present in the life of a Christian.

The second word Paul uses is “akatharsia.” This is the negation of the word catharsis, meaning clean. Adding the alpha to the front of the word negates the word in its definition. So catharsis or clean becomes akatharsia- meaning unclean. In this way, Paul calls Christians to think about the innate value of what they fill themselves with. Believers must fill themselves with that which is clean and not that which is unclean. Connected with the definition of akatharsia is a sense of worthlessness. That which is unclean is that which is worthless to the Christian. It has no weight in the Kingdom of God and serves no purpose.

The third word Paul uses to describe earthly things is pathos, meaning lusts or lustful desires. This word is closely related to the concept of misfortune or calamity. Indeed, when we surrender to our baser lusts and desires, we often find that calamity follows. So Paul exhorts the believer to change their focus from the lower earthly passions and seek to be consumed by the greater passions of God’s heavenly kingdom.

The fourth phrase Paul uses is “evil desires.” I trust that the careful reader can acknowledge that little exposition is needed to explain Paul’s meaning in these words. His straightforward tone is hard to dismiss. Christians are not to be controlled by desires and affections that are rooted in this world. Rather, our affections are to be manifestly different. We are to be so consummately holy (that is to say “set apart”) that we are identified as complete aberrations to this world.

The Final phrase used to describe that which is earthly level our sensibilities. Earthly is covetousness, which is idolatry. Indeed, Modern Americans have extreme difficulty here and Paul leaves no room for us to rationalize our attitudes. The spirit of greed and selfishness is bound up in covetousness. But at its root, coveting is the result of idolatry. It is the result of worshiping something other than the One True God. Further, all that is listed here in verse 5 is the result of idolatrous activity. It is an attempt to satisfy our own needs by insisting that we know better than God. It is seeking to satisfy our desires rather than deny them for the sake of greater joy.

Christians look different from the world and must be faithful to that end.