Christian Love and Putting on Christ


[Editor’s note: An appropriate sermon considering the recent conversations here about Christian love and the degrading counterfeits the world offers us. How does a christian understand love in a culture fraught with obscenity? It begins with putting on Christ.]

How Do We Put On Christ?

And how do you do that? We could answer this question simply from the nature of faith and hope and love themselves. Faith comes from hearing, so put on Christ by listening to the word of God about Christ. Hope comes from promises, so put on Christ by remembering the promises of Christ. Love comes by the loveliness of Christ, so put on Christ by calling to mind his beauty.

But there is a signal in this text itself that confirms that we are on the right track in answering this way about how to put on Christ. Verse 14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” The word “provision” means literally “forethought,” and the whole sentence would go like this: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t let any thought in your head that would lead to a sinful desire—not just to the gratification of the sinful desire, but even the desire itself.

And we all know how this works—male and female, young and old. We know that by thinking certain thoughts we can awaken certain sinful desires. Paul gives us three categories of sinful desires and what they produce. They are just samples. Verse 13: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, 1) not in orgies and drunkenness, 2) not in sexual immorality and sensuality, 3) not in quarreling and jealousy.” 1) Inordinate desires for drink—or we might say, “substance abuse” (alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, etc.). 2) Inordinate desires for sex—whether fornication or adultery or incest or bestiality or pornography. 3) Desires for attention and preeminence and control that produces quarreling and jealousy.

And the point of verse 14b (“make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”) is “Don’t let any thought in your head that gives rise to these sinful desires.”

If you are bored, or lonely, or tired, or discouraged, or feeling hopeless, don’t ponder the relief of alcohol or drugs. They simply put you to sleep; they stir up the sleepwalking that Paul calls the works of darkness. It’s like going to work in your pajamas. Don’t let those thoughts in your head.

Frustrated housewife or working mom, married to a man who never learned affection, never learned tenderness, never learned how to simply talk about what matters to you, don’t daydream about romantic Mister Perfect. Don’t let those thoughts into your head.

Frustrated husband or single man, who wonders why there is no woman to embrace or why the woman you have doesn’t want to embrace, do not let illicit thoughts into your mind. Don’t put them there with your fantasy and don’t do it with your computer. 12% of all websites are pornographic. 25% of all search engine requests are related to pornography. Internet revenue from pornography is $2.5 billion a year. Don’t be conformed to this darkness. The night is far gone. The day is at hand. Put on the armor of light. Put on Christ. Don’t let thoughts into your mind that waken sinful desires.

Or what about quarreling and jealousy? If you have been wronged—maybe 30 years ago—or your have been overlooked, or belittled, or misunderstood, or abandoned, don’t let these thoughts into your head. They are a provision for the flesh. They awaken resentment and anger and envy and covetousness and jealousy. Don’t let these thoughts into your head, says the Lord.

How? Sometimes just trying to resist them reminds you of them. The answer is not mainly by direct resistance—though that is very important. We should indeed say NO! to a rising thought that would lead to sinful desire. But the answer is mainly in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ—that is, calling to mind the words of God that awaken more faith in Jesus, and calling to mind the promises of God that awaken more hope in Jesus, and calling to mind the beauty of Christ that awakens more love to Jesus. This is the confirmation I was talking about.

Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ is not just the alternative to making provision for the flesh. It is the way we keep from making provision for the flesh.. It’s the way we kill these sinful thoughts. It’s the way we keep them from even arising. When you put on the armor of light—daily (or hourly!) fresh faith in Christ, hope in Christ, love for Christ—it is hard for the works of darkness to cling to you. They are pushed out by the light. If your eye is good (if you see Christ as your treasure) your whole body will be full of light.

Owe No One Anything But Love

Now let me close by reminding you that this whole paragraph is continuing the command of verse 8 to owe no one anything but to love. It’s about how you love other people. It’s about the motivation that comes from knowing that the day of peace and joy and righteousness have dawned and we are people of the day not of the night. And it’s about how love looks in this day of fading darkness and dawning light.

Read the rest and listen to the sermon in full here

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