Paul ended chapter 2 confirming the lack of power that religious activity has against sensual indulgence. His comments there and his instructions here in chapter 3 confirm that sensual indulgence is something we need to deal with.
We are now in the season of Lent. In its purest form it is intended to be a time of fasting, prayer, and generosity in preparation for Resurrection Sunday. The concept of Lent sounds good, but the practice through history seems to be a vivid example of exactly what Paul is writing about in chapter 2. Participating in Lent has not been effective has not been a transforming activity for most who share in it. As we were discussing Lent with our grandson on the way home from church yesterday, I was reminded that Lent and Mardi Gras are closely related. For many, Mardi Gras, is an opportunity to encourage rather than restrain sensual indulgence. The basic principle of Lent is that we will improve by not doing some things.
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9,10 NIV)
The principle we find in Paul’s letters is that we cannot get rid of the old practices and attitudes through the power of our wills. The only way to rid ourselves of the old is to put on something new. We come to Jesus clothed in selfish and sensual desires. Life is all about us. When we choose to put on Jesus, we are clothed generous and spiritual desires.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God– this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
The challenge is that our minds don’t immediately recognize the reality of our being clothed with Christ. I need to be reminded daily. How do you remind yourself each day that you are clothed in Jesus Christ?
To my grandchildren:
Doing good new things is the easiest way to stop doing old bad things.