Sunday, April 21, 2013

Killing Sin

The Holy Spirit and Mortification (Mortification = Killing Sin)

Col. 2:21ff: “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion (lit. will-worship) and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

There are two poles here – and there is a chasm between them that cannot be crossed – man-religion and God-religion: dependence on man, and dependence on God.

I. Useless Program to Kill Sin: Will-Worship

There are many useless methods abroad, which, while having the appearance of spirituality and wisdom, actually have no power to mortify (mortify = put to death) sin.

Self-made religion (lit = will-worship): serving God our way in our own strength.

Self-made religion: "voluntary service, which men choose for themselves at their own option, without authority from God (Calvin).”

This is when we come up with a worldly religion of our own which is disconnected from what God says in His Word. Book stores abound with books about ‘how to find God’; books on ‘conversations with God,’ etc. This person tells you how they found God, all by themselves. God’s Word tells us what God requires.

Self-made religion is often a ‘will-religion’: this means we kill sin by ‘methods.’ Will-religion mentions nothing about Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

“The idea is that these individuals practice a set of religious beliefs resulting from their own desire and initiative. This is a religion thought up by oneself. By one's own volition (will) he worships what seems best. This is self-made or "do-it-yourself" religion (from Precept-Austin).”

Paul condemns self-made/will religion with a great shattering blow: this is useless in restraining sin.

Will-religion manifests itself in 3 ways:

1. Legalism

do not handle, do not taste, etc: “Mere legal duties with no mention of Christ or his Spirit (John Owen).” No value in killing sin!

Legalism is law-religion.

It takes several forms:

1. Legalism = adding to the commands of God: commanding people to do things God never commanded.
There is a difference between a good idea and God’s idea. Which is worse: To prohibit what God allows? or, To allow what God prohibits? Both are wrong.

This same legalism was manifest in Eve’s carnal exaggeration, “You must not touch it, or you will die” (Ge 3:3; cf. Ge 2:16,17) (Precept-Austin).

God has NOT said: “You may not touch it.” He had said: “You may not eat...” Legalism paints God as a cosmic kill-joy who prohibits everything.

2. Legalism = believing we are saved by our works (cf. Eph. 2:8-10). This is the idea that our works merit something with God. Legalism is a graceless religion. However, we are not under law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14).

Since the gospel has freed the believer from attempting to gain heaven by self-effort, he should never subject himself again to legalistic ordinances...don't try to gain God's acceptance and pleasure by self-effort (Precept-Austin).

3. Legalism: religious life apart from dependence on God – living in our own strength in the law. Legalism leaves the Holy Spirit out.

A Test of whether our teaching is legalistic or Biblical: Could an unbeliever teach this and it would be no different? Could a Muslim teach this and not get into trouble? Much talk about holiness is Christ-less.

2. Human precepts, teaching

Again, no value!

Mark 7:5ff: And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

            Many of our ‘methods’ for fighting sin have no value; they were never instituted by God.

3. Asceticism (self-torture to get to holiness)

Again, no value!

            Illus: Man who cut his eyes out to try and fulfill Jesus’ command: if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out. Throughout history there have been some dreadful instances of people trying to get control of sin by destroying their physical bodies (vomiting; beating self with whip; punishing themselves by despising their body; despising food, self-mutilation, etc).

Eating disorders often fit into this category: purging of ‘evil’ food so we can be holy, and better people; this is also way of 'punishing' ourselves.

Even fasting, disconnected from Christ, is useless:

There once were two men. One said, “I fast twice a week”; the other said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Only one went down to his house justified (Luke 18:12-14).

Self-torture: This includes ‘hating ourselves to holiness.’ Idea = if I just hate myself enough for my actions I will change. When we go off course, we punish ourselves by internal name-calling.

A lot of preachers do this week after week to their congregations: they berate congregations for sin – and, the congregation leaves feeling guilty after a tongue lashing.

II. The God-centered means to kill Sin=

Holy Spirit: Almighty Energy is needed to kill sin

Gal. 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh

Romans 8:13: For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

“The Holy Spirit works in us and with us, not against us or without us, so that his assistance is an encouragement as to the accomplishing of the work (John Owen).”

"The cause why our oppressors prevail oft against us is, because we trust too much in our own wits, and lean too much upon our own inventions; opposing subtility to subtility, one evil device to another, matching and maintaining policy by policy, and not committing our cause to God (Puritan, Abraham Wright)."

When we are engaged in will-religion we fight sin (name your sin: greed, covetousness, unforgiveness, etc) with sin (independence from God).

From Valley of Vision (Puritan Prayers): “Uphold me by Thy free Spirit, and may I not think it enough to be preserved from falling, but may I always go forward, always abounding in the work Thou givest me to do. Strengthen me by Thy Spirit in my inner self for every purpose of my Christian life.”

Further Study Notes/ Quaint Sayings:

The preposition apo (in apothnesko) emphasizes the alienation and separation from human ordinances which the believer’s co-death with Christ has brought about.

Elementary principles (4747) (stoicheion) refers to the basic components of something, as for example the basic elements from which everything in the world is made and of which it is composed. Stoicheion refers to the rudimentary elements of anything or what belongs to a basic series in any field of knowledge. For example, in grammar, the ABCs, in speech, basic sounds, in physics, the four basic elements (earth, air, fire, water), in geometry, the axioms and in philosophy, the givens. As used in this verse it is a religious technical term making reference to elementary doctrines, fundamental teachings or basic principles.

kosmos (world) refers not to the physical earth or universe but to the spiritual reality of the man-centered (humanistic); Kosmos represents the self-centered, godless value system and "ethical" mores of fallen mankind. The goal of the world is self-glory, self-fulfillment, self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, and every other form of self-serving.

Asceticism is not easily defined because of its diverse manifestations, but in general it involves self-deprivation and is usually pursued out of a desire to glorify God by avoiding what is harmful and by limiting oneself to what is necessary to maintain life. It is unfortunately susceptible to the danger that the pursuit may become subtly diverted to a desire to outstrip one’s fellows and to be credited with a holiness of life unattained by ordinary mortals. These spiritually elite, in turn, may seek to dominate other lives. “There is no pride like that which bases on ascetic austerity the claim to direct with authority the life and conduct of others” (James Denney). (Bromiley, G. W. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised. Wm. B. Eerdmans)

Lightfoot paraphrases Colossians 2:20-23 as follows...
"You died with Christ to your old life. All mundane relations have ceased for you. Why then do you—you who have attained your spiritual manhood—submit still to the rudimentary discipline of children? Why do you—you who are citizens of heaven—bow your necks afresh to the tyranny of material ordinances as though you were still living in the world? It is the same old story again; the same round of hard, meaningless, vexatious prohibitions, “Handle not,” “Taste not,” “Touch not.” What folly! All these things—these meats and drinks and the like—are earthly, perishable, wholly trivial and unimportant! They have already been used, and there is an end of them. What is this but to draw down on yourselves the denunciations uttered by the prophet of old? What is this but to abandon God’s word for precepts which are issued by human authority and inculcated by human teachers? All such things have a show of wisdom, I grant. There is an officious parade of religious devotion, an eager affectation of humility; there is a stern ascetic rigor which ill-treats the body. But there is nothing of any real value to check indulgence of the flesh."
Dr John Piper gives believers wise counsel regarding the spiritual discipline of fasting writing...
Beware of books on fasting. The Bible is very careful to warn us about people who “advocate abstaining from foods, which God created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). The apostle Paul asks with dismay, “Why .. . do you submit yourself to decrees, such as ‘Do not han­dle, do not taste, do not touch’?” (Colossians 2:20-21). He is jealous for the full enjoyment of Christian liberty. Like a great declaration of freedom over every book on fasting flies the ban­ner, “Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat” (1 Corinthians 8:8). There once were two men. One said, “I fast twice a week”; the other said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Only one went down to his house justified (Luke 18:12-14).
The discipline of self-denial is fraught with dangers— perhaps only surpassed by the dangers of indulgence. These also we are warned about: “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). What masters us has become our god; and Paul warns us about those “whose god is their appetite” (see note Philippians 3:19). Appetite dictates the direc­tion of their lives. The stomach is sovereign. This has a religious expression and an irreligious one. Religiously “persons . . . turn the grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jude 4) and tout the slogan, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food” (1 Corinthians 6:13). Irreligiously, with no pretext of pardoning grace, persons simply yield to “the desires for other things [that] enter in and choke the word” (Mark 4:19).
“Desires for other things”—there’s the enemy. And the only weapon that will triumph is a deeper hunger for God. The weak­ness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with “other things.” Perhaps, then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God. (Piper, John: A Hunger for God).”
Handle (680) (haptomai from from hapto = to fasten to, to connect, bind) means to make close contact and to touch or take hold of something or someone. Haptomai refers to such handling of an object as to exert a modifying influence upon it or upon oneself. Although Paul uses the verb literally in this verse, elsewhere he uses it figuratively meaning to not "touch a woman" sexual sense (see 1 Cor 7:1).

Haptomai involves a conscious effort to touch, an idea that is absent from the other word for touch, thiggano (see below) The NAS picks up the sense translating it "handle". Think for a moment about the distinction between ''handling'' something versus simply ''touching'' it.

The meaning is still further explained in the next verse. These are prohibitions which are manmade, as is indicated by the expression according to the commandments and doctrines (teachings to shape hearer's will) of men.

From Precept-Austin:
Paul is describing the essence of the practice of asceticism, an over-developed zeal, a dedication that goes far beyond true Christian discipline and seeks to please God by extreme forms of self-denial. Dedication and discipline are a proper part of the Christian life. You must often make yourself (enabled by grace and the indwelling Spirit) do what God wants you to do, simply because you love him. Love is the proper motive for obedience and the Spirit and grace (in contrast to self effort) is the proper power.

Paul has already commended the Colossians because they led disciplined (see note Colossians 2:5), well-ordered lives. But you can make a god of discipline. You can take perverse delight in making yourself do difficult things that win the approval of others, and (you deceptively imagine), of God as well. As a monk, Martin Luther fell into such empty practices before he became a believer. He would lie naked in his cell all night long in the bitter cold and he beat his body and tortured himself, trying to find peace of heart.

Ray Stedman writes:
"I grew up in Christian evangelical churches that taught there were certain things that Christians must always avoid, and if you observed these taboos you not only were acceptable to the religious community but you were actually pleasing God. I was taught that Christians never drink, never dance, never smoke, never go to movies, never play cards, and never read novels. These prohibitions were usually thundered at us! I do not deny that refraining from some of these things is a perfectly proper discipline of the spirit, but any idea that giving up of things of itself is pleasing to God, is wrong. Christianity is a positive faith. If you want to know what pleases God, read the last twelve verses of Ro 12. You will not find anything negative there. Rather, we are asked to "bless those who persecute you," to love the unlovely and minister to the strangers in our midst. Do things that other people cannot do; that is how true faith is demonstrated."
But what is wrong with fasting until one is close to death, wearing hair shirts, refusing to marry, eating only vegetables, praying by the clock, etc.? Three things:
First, it shows you do not understand your death with Christ. "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world [or, as we saw earlier, "to the elemental spirits of the universe"], why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?" To do so is to return to childish behavior---thinking that God will be pleased by your negative approach to life.

In the church this becomes what we call "legalism," which is to pursue holiness by self-effort, instead of accepting the holiness that God freely gives, by faith, and then living it out in terms of experience. A legalist looks at life and says, "Everything is wrong unless you can prove by the Bible that it is right. Therefore, we must have nothing to do with anything that the Bible does not say is right." That reduces life to a very narrow range of activity. But the biblical Christian looks at life and says, "Everything is right! God has given us a world to enjoy and live in. Everything is right, unless the Bible specifically says it is wrong." Some things are wrong; they are harmful and dangerous. Adultery is always wrong. So is fornication. Sexual promiscuity is wrong. Lying and stealing are wrong. These things are never right. But there is so much that is left open to us. If we are willing to obey God in the areas that he designates as harmful and dangerous, then we have the rest of life to enter into in company with a Savior who loves us, and who guides and guards us in our walk with him.

... the apostle declares these things are of no value in restraining the indulgence of the flesh. People may outwardly appear dedicated and disciplined, but inwardly sin rages unchecked. Inside they are angry, resentful, filled with vituperation and a spirit of vengeance. Many Christians have this problem. They are trying to regulate the externals instead of walking in the fullness and freshness of life with Jesus Christ, finding the inward purity and cleansing that He alone provides.

All of these errors have one thing in common---they lose the vital relationship we have "in Christ"! If you fall into any, you lose the vitality and vigor of your Christian walk. Life becomes dull and often desperate...When these things take over even here in this place, return to Him. We must take care that every day we are in touch (Col 2:19 "hold fast to the head") with our loving Lord and walking in fellowship with Him.
As Spurgeon says
'Talk' is easy, but 'walk' is hard. 'Speech' any man may attain unto, but 'act' is difficult. We must have grace within to make our life holy; but 'lip-piety' needs no grace. Some people I know of are like inns, which have an angel hanging outside for a sign, but they have a devil within for a landlord. There are many men of that kind; they take good care to have an excellent sign hanging out, they must be known by all men to be strictly religious; but within, which is the all-important matter, they are full of wickedness. There are many books which are excellently bound, but there is nothing within them; and there are many persons that have a very good spiritual exterior, but there is nothing whatever in the heart."

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