Colossians 3:4-11

4 Brethren, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of diobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! In this morning’s Epistle reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, St. Paul gives us something we all need every now and then—a reminder. He reminds us that the path which leads to life eternal, the life of the new man in Christ, is a life that requires something of us. And not just to go to Church, to fast, to tithe, to pray. All of those things are important, but this morning he reminds us that following Christ requires changes in the way we live. And so he gives a list of sins, certainly not a complete list, but a partial list of the sins and the type of life that the Christian is no longer to lead. These things, St. Paul writes, we walked in for some time, when we lived in them, but now we must put them off. We have to lay aside the sins of the flesh—fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence. All of these sins St. Paul lists are sins of very strong physical desire. He could have easily added gluttony and drunkenness to this same section of the list. We have to lay aside all the desires, the pullings, the yearning of the flesh. All things that violate the way that we were created to live. We replace these sinful desires with the will of God. We also have to put off all the sins of our minds, our souls, our hearts. These sins separate us from our fellow man and from God, but there are often no visible consequences, so we tend to lay off these sins more slowly. Anger, wrath and malice—St. John Climacus says the man who gives himself to anger is like a willing epileptic who voluntarily throws himself to the ground (Step 8.11). Filthy communication our of your mouth—I don’t know how many people I’ve had ask me if profanity was actually a sin, no filthy communication says St. Paul. Lie not, and don’t covet because that is idolatry. If we want something that God hasn’t provided for us, then we’re putting that object in the place of God, making an idol of it. And he calls us to lay aside blasphemy. And the Fathers tell us that apart from blatantly speaking against God, which most Christians wouldn’t do. We commit blasphemy, we speak against God, any time we fail to give thanks for the blessings we’ve been given. When we complain about our situation in life, it’s the same as speaking against God—questioning the way that God has dealt with us. All of these sins are no longer to be a part of life for those of us who claim Christ. Because, as St. Paul puts it, we have “put off the old man with his deeds and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” The new man, the man reborn in Christ, is called to live, and we have been given the grace to live, life as mankind was created to enjoy it from the beginning. And St. Paul reminds us of this with a phrase, saying the new man is “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Adam and Even were created in image of God. God breathed His very life into the lungs of Adam. But after the Fall, when Adam bears children, Moses writes in Genesis that “Adam… begot a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3). Mankind is created in the image and likeness of God, but after the Fall, the Scriptures teach us that our children are now born in our image. This is the meaning of the sins of the father being visited on the children—when we’re created in the image of God we have the characteristics of God, and when we’re born in the image of our fathers we have the characteristics of our father. So the children of mankind are no longer in the perfect image of God. We’re certainly still created in the image and likeness of God, that’s a trait of humanity that can never be totally lost. But because of sin, that image is shadowed. And we pass on a broken and fallen image, the image of ourselves, in the procreation of the human race. And outside of Christ this is all that’s possible, a humanity broken in sin, separated from God, never quite able to be fulfilled, to complete and heal that broken nature. But St. Paul teaches us that in Christ we’re a new creation. We put off the old ways of sin that separated us from God. And in baptism, what was broken in the Fall is healed. In Christ the fullness of the image and likeness of God is restored in us. And the new man that we are in Christ is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. His broken nature is restored in Christ. The image is cleaned, restored, healed. The knowledge of what we’re created to be is renewed in us, and we’re given the grace now to attain unto the likeness of God. And attaining unto that likeness means putting off the ways of the old man. When the Fathers of the Church write about the spiritual life, the first step in the walk to Christ is to put off our sins. There’s so much to be done in us by Christ. So much God offers us. And the first thing we have to do is lay down the ways of the world. St. Paul writes, “mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.” There’s no trick to doing it. God provides the grace, we have to provide the will. “The Kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). God’s grace is always present, always pulling us toward the kingdom. But it requires a matching violence on our part—a laying aside of the old man, of all we knew before Christ, and dedicating ourselves entirely to the life of Christ. And where does this violence against sin and the old man come from? The proper perspective on reality. St. Paul writes, “Christ, who is our life…Christ is all, and in all.” And when this is our testimony, the mortification of our fleshly passions is a natural thing to do. We run away from anything that might separate us from Christ for even one moment. Fr. Zacharias Zacharou has a book, Christ, Our Way and Our Life, and in it there’s a section called “Love – To the Point of Self-Hatred.” This is the proper perspective that brings about the violence, the passion within us needed to force our wills down the path that leads to Christ. Love of Christ to the point where the world would think that we despised ourselves. Abandoning all things in order to dedicate ourselves to Christ, and Him alone. This is the self-emptying love of Christ on the Cross, in which we also participate in our self-emptying to be filled with the love and the life of God Himself. And as we’ll sing in a few moments—“now let us lay aside aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all.” Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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