Being a married Christian is a function of being a Christian. In other words, we should not expect to find a set of marital “techniques” that are unrelated to the task of living as a Christian generally. For the unmarried, the best preparation for future duties is a pleasant embrace of current duties. For those who are married, there is no way to grow as a husband in Christ, or as a wife in Christ, apart from growing in Christ—and so we must consider the means of grace.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him (Col. 3:1-10).
In this text, we have all the ingrediants of a lousy marriage, as well as instruction that, if followed, will make your marriage a blessed relationship. What does your baptism mean? What does it point to? If you have been raised with Christ, then look to the heavens because you have also ascended with Him (v. 1). Set your affection on heavenly things, not earthly things (v. 2). The reason for this is that you are dead in Christ (with regard to worldy things), and your life is in the heavenlies with Christ (v. 3). When Christ, our life, comes again, we shall be glorified in Him (v. 4). This being the case, and on this basis, St. Paul tells Christians to put certain things to death, that is, their own members. What are those members? The answer is fornication (sexual impurity), uncleanness (having a dirty body and mind), inordinate affection (no emotional balance), lust (lust) and coveting what is your neignbor’s (whether it be his house, car, wife, or daughter). That is idolatry (v. 5). God hates this stuff and is angry with it (v. 6). Many of you used to be pagans and you remember this way of life (v. 7). But we are also told to put off attitudinal and verbal problems—anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy talk, and lies (vv. 8-9). And having put off the old carcass, put on the new man, the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 10).
Sometimes those in the Reformed tradition have tended to emphasize our remaining sinfulness to such an extent that they begin to exhibit a stubborn willfulness about it. While a casual and breezy perfectionism is to be rejected, and rejected with loathing, it remains the case that God commands us to be done with sin. We are not to live that way. There are two ways of looking at our text. One points out that Christians are being told to mortify their members which are on the earth, and that those members are inherently sinful. This is quite true. It is also true that the point of the command is to mortify those members. How we respond to God’s commands in such matters makes a difference. There is such a thing as righteousness on the earth, and righteousness within marriage. It is not the case that a backslidden Christian is under one hundred feet of water while the godliest saint who ever lived is only under three feet of water—but both of them equally wet. Obedience is possible, and God expects it. The yoke of Christ is easy, and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30).
At the same time, we do struggle with our remaining sinfulness, and we will do so until we are with the Lord. Do not look for convenience store holiness. The great Puritan John Owen said that a man will make no progress in godliness who does not walk, daily, over the bellies of his lusts. Let he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).
THREE LEVELS OF SANCTIFICATION:
For all those who are in Christ, the old man is dead (Rom. 6:6). This was done definitively at conversion (by God, and not by us), and does not need to be repeated. It cannot be repeated. Second, for those who are already in Christ, our attachments to the world through our members must be executed, as in our passage from Colossians (cf. Rom. 6:12-13). The verb mortify is an aorist imperative. Put it to death, and walk away from the carcass, your revolver smoking. This thing, when done, is to be definitively done. And third, you will continue to deal with remaining sinfulness the rest of your life. Complacency is deadly. You might weed your garden every summer for twenty years, but what will happen if you quit for just one summer? Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against your soul (1 Pet. 2:11).
Husbands and wives who do not mortify their members which are on the earth are actively engaged in an attempted mortification of their marriage. This is another “not whether but which“ situation. It is not whether you will mortifiy something, it is which thing you will mortify. What will it be? Your sin? Or your marriage?
In our text for this morning, here are some prime marriage killers. 1. Sexual covetousness and lust: Too many Christian men are not serious enough about dealing with this. And too many Christian wives behave in that prim way that ensures their husband will never enlist their help. 2. Anger: Far from being the hidden sin, this is explosive and out in the open (at least within the family). Anger is often connected with “blasphemy.” 3. Lies: Often these household lies are covered with euphemisms to make them acceptable–discret silence, manners, and so on. 4. Covetousness: How many wives urge their husbands to the wrong kind of ambition?
MEANS OF GRACE:
How do you mortify sin? How do you “pull the trigger?” The answer is simple on one level—repentance and faith. You decide that you are done with the sin (repentance). You change your mind about it. You do this in the context of what God has provided for your strengthening (faith). What is that context? Worship, confession, Scripture reading, prayer, thanksgiving, psalm-singing, and taking the Lord’s Supper.