Intro: Does it ever seem to you that you are under relentless attack by a fallen world? Filth on your TV screen; violence in the headlines; temptation from the most innocent and unexpected sources. Do you find that you have an enemy on the inside straining to cooperate with these forces? Urges come into your heart that you know are for things improper for God’s holy people. Desires arise for things you know will tear you down rather than building you up, spiritually. And what about those unwanted thoughts that come to mind? Ideas pop into our heads that simply can’t be from God. Doubts about our salvation. Wicked imaginations we’d blush for others to know had crossed our minds. Where do these come from? The believer is always under attack from relentless, wicked enemies. What provision has been given for overcoming the flesh in the believer’s life? What provision has been made for the forgiveness of sin in the believer’s life? What provision has been given for the defeat of Satan and his demons in the believer’s life? Tonight we’ll discover that a full and sufficient provision has been supplied so that we as believers may triumph over our enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.
Proposition: We have every needed resource in Christ to triumph over our enemies, so see to it that no one takes you captive to do sin’s bidding.
(vv.6-10) Review – Our Christian life continues on the same basis by which it began: The secret to Godly living is accessing God’s grace (His powerful working on our behalf) through the door of faith (trusting and obeying Christ by following Him in His word). Because our enemy is always trying to take us captive to do his will, we need to be constantly on guard against his schemes. We need nothing more than we have received in Christ, in whom all the fullness of deity dwells bodily, since we have been filled in Him. The Holy Spirit writes through Paul in this section of the letter to assure us that because we are in Christ, we have every resource we need for life and godliness.
(v.11-12) Resource against the power of the flesh – One enemy that constantly attacks the believer is called in Scripture, “the flesh.” What is being referred to in this way is our old sin nature, inherited from Adam. This enemy works through creating in our hearts desires for things that are improper for us as believers. “Selfishness” is a key word to keep in mind. The flesh simply wants what it wants for its own satisfaction. Following the desires of the flesh will inevitably lead the believer back into captivity by Satan because when we willfully sin, we give Satan “ground” in our lives from which to take us captive to do his will (cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Satan cannot cause us to fall again into condemnation (cf. Romans 8:1) but he can use the unwary believer as a tool for his own purposes, damaging our testimony and effectiveness for Christ. The power of the flesh is broken by virtue of our being “in Christ.” Verses 11 & 12 now assure us that the old nature’s authority over the believer has been broken because in Christ we are raised to newness of life. This occurs when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the believer (cf. Romans 8:2). The Moody Bible Commentary mentions two benefits coming from our union with Christ in this regard: “First, genuine circumcision – that is, of the heart. It is not literal (not performed by hands), but spiritual, being performed by the Holy Spirit…. Second, being buried with and raised up with Christ is a way of saying we have passed from old life to new life (Rm. 6:1-4).” The point is that when we are in Christ and Christ’s Spirit lives in us, we have a whole new power available to us with which to counteract the flesh’s temptations. We have been made new in Christ and can now count on the power of the indwelling Spirit to help us in our struggle against the old nature’s power. As verse 6 of this chapter instructs us, we enter into the realization of this truth by KNOWING THE FACT of our being indwelled and WALKING BY FAITH into its enjoyment.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Our resource for overcoming the flesh is the Spirit’s presence in our heart.
[ILLUSTRATION] Have you ever tried to pick something up that was much heavier than you realized? You want to pick it up! You may even need to pick it up! But wanting to pick it up and needing to pick it up doesn’t give you the power to pick it up. We want to escape from the flesh’s power. We need to escape from the flesh’s temptations. But in our own strength, we simply do not have the power to do so. If we’re going to beat temptation; if we’re going to fulfill our calling to live a Christ-like life, we’re going to have to know how to access the Spirit’s power.
[APPLICATION] Every Christian trying to defeat the power of sin through their own strength needs to learn that God has already provided everything we need for this struggle in Christ. When the Spirit of Jesus comes to live in us at our conversion the fullness of deity in Christ is given to us so that we may triumph over our enemy, the flesh and the devil. Why do so many Christians struggle unsuccessfully against the flesh? Perhaps because they do not realize the power they’ve been given at their conversion, or perhaps they simply do not know the secret for tapping into that power. The Colossians seemed to be ignorant of the great power they had received in Christ, so in these verses the Holy Spirit sought to strengthen them by speaking to their minds. In verses 6-12 He taught them, and us, the truth of God’s provision for victory over the flesh: Christ’s Spirit living in the believer provides all the strength necessary for a Christ-like life. Though this lesson has been ours since Paul penned the book, even today many believers live defeated lives because they have never learned this truth. Ignorance of the Scriptures causes not a few to live in spiritual depression. The other hindrance faced by many is a failure to realize how to access this power through faith. It is no coincidence that this discussion begins in verse 6 with a reminder to continue to live by grace through faith after coming to Christ. “Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” How did we receive Him? We learned the FACTS about His saving work for us and we put our FAITH in Him. In just this same way victory over the flesh is given when we learn the facts about His Spirit living in us and begin to live a life of trust in Christ for victory over the flesh. Often believers trudge through years of discouragement and defeat because they live under the impression that victory over the flesh is solely a question of their own strength, discipline and will power. They fall into the grip of legalistic systems, rituals and ascetic practices in a vain attempt to overcome the enemy within. What a blessed relief when our eyes are finally opened to the facts: God has already given us all we need in Christ to win the battle. We need only access this power by trusting Him to be our champion. Have you learned the secret of trusting Christ for daily victory over sin?
(vv.13-15) Resource against the power of the devil – In verse 13 a new challenge is added to the one faced in verses 11 and 12. In those verses the enemy was “the uncircumcision of your flesh,” the old sinful nature. Now, added to this is another power which must be dealt with, “your trespasses,” the sins we have committed, are committing and will commit in the future. These sins form “the record of debt” that stands against us and gave to our enemy the devil (“rulers and authorities”) the right to accuse us as sinners before God and before our own consciences. This “record of debt” must somehow be dealt with if we are to be freed from Satan’s authority over us, and this God has done through Christ’s death on the cross. “God made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.” God himself canceled Satan’s legal right to accuse us and left the powers of evil “disarmed” and “put them to open shame.” How did He do this? “This [record of debt] he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” When the Romans crucified a man, they nailed a list of his crimes to the cross above the victim’s head for all the world to see as justification for their right to put him to death. “This death,” they said, “is in payment for these crimes.” At Calvary, God Himself nailed the full record of our debt to Him for our sins to the cross of Jesus, saying, “This death is in payment for these sins.” Satan’s power to accuse us is now forever canceled. Oh, he still barks out his accusations! But there is no need for us now to take them seriously, for we are “triumphing over them in” Jesus’ victory at the cross.
[DOCTRINAL POINT] Our resource for overcoming the devil is Jesus’ death for us on the cross.
[ILLUSTRATION] Ignorance is not bliss! Ignorance among mankind is one of the greatest plagues known. Because some men are ignorant of the threat to life and health caused by impure water sources, thousands, if not millions die premature deaths each year in the majority world. Because some children in war torn lands are ignorant of the presence of land mines, they are maimed for life, simply for playing in the wrong field. Most tellingly, ignorance of the true Christ traps millions in their sins right here in our own nation. Ignorance of the facts can be fatal in these cases. Even as believers, ignorance of the facts concerning God’s grace to us can cause much needless confusion, doubt and uncertainty in hearts that are soundly saved.
[APPLICATION] Our enemy the devil delights to keep us in ignorance so that he may easily take us captive to do his will. Just as ignorance of Christ’s power living inside us gives the flesh power to defeat us, so ignorance of Christ’s victory for us over our sins gives Satan power to entrap us under guilt, shame, insecurity and fear. The Holy Spirit through Paul sought to teach the Colossians, and us, the great liberation from Satan’s power won for us by Christ on Calvary. Having dealt with the power of our old nature in verses 11-12, here He sought to free us from the power of sins committed in the past, the present and yes, even the future. Satan’s great weapon over a believer is the power of accusation. If he has his way, he’ll never let us forget a single one of our sins, for as long as we believe in our continuing guilt, we will grant him ground in our lives to have his way with us. That is why the first lesson of the cross we should learn from our Savior is that His death on our behalf cancelled “the debt that stood against us.” On Calvary Christ “disarmed the rulers and authorities” by cancelling the ground of accusation against you and me due to our sins. Because of our union with Christ, all of our sins, past, present and future, have been dealt with and are no longer grounds for condemnation before God. Armed with this fact and faith in Jesus, we can now triumph over our arch-enemy’s temptations and accusations. We no longer need to live in guilt, shame, insecurity and fear because Christ has triumphed over our enemies on Calvary. Has this fact gripped your soul?
Conclusion: Warren Wiersbe tells us, “Satan cannot harm the believer who will not harm himself. It is when we cease to watch and pray (as Peter did) that Satan can use his weapons to harm us.” Have you settled on this fact: Christ has canceled all your sins on the cross? Claim that fact by faith next time the accuser of the saints tempts you to fear, shame, guilt or insecurity. Who will you trust? Satan or Christ? Satan only lies; Christ never does. In Christ believers have every resource we need to crush the power of the flesh and defeat the power of the devil. Grasp these resources by faith, and refuse to be taken captive again by “high sounding religious nonsense” used by our adversaries to trick us into cooperation with their schemes.