ON BEING DEAD WHILE YOU'RE ALIVE
Colossians 2:13 says, “And you being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Christ, having forgiven you all trespasses.” This text declares that Christians were once dead but now are alive, and it necessarily implies all who are not Christians are dead to God even when they are alive. The gospel message raises this question to all Jews and Gentiles alike, “Are you dead or alive?” In God we live, move and have our being, but so far as usefulness to God is concerned most people are no more useful to Him that dead people in their graves. For the Creator to charge the human race with being sinful and the same as dead is most disturbing indeed. This is the message of the Christian religion, and it is having a most disturbing effect on the greater part of mankind . God informs us that most people are alive in one sense but very dead in another sense. The book of Colossians was written to Christians and was intended primarily for the strengthening of Christians. There are however, several references to the subject of conversion which serves to enlighten and encourage those who are not yet Christians. In this passage there are several truths of great importance to believers and unbelievers, to the saved and lost, and to those in Christ and out of Christ, to those in the Christian religion and to all not affiliated with the religion of Christ.
The first truth that stands out in the passage is that man and woman ought not to be the way they are. This truth is expressed in this most unusual way, “And you being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh.” What God is saying here is that all Christians at one time were uncircumcised and spiritually dead people. What kind of death is this? Certainly, it is was not physical death. Dead in trespasses and uncircumcised in the flesh are mtaphors, but they are most meaningful figures of speech. Even though we enjoyed physical life, yet we expressed our wills and did as we pleased in our disobedience and opposition to God. Human beings are capable of two kinds of life–life from Adam and life from God, fleshly life and spiritual life, and worldly life and religious life. People are said to be dead because of the low quality of life they are living. I will give you one of many examples of a low quality of life. God says when younger women unfortunately become widows and continue to use their bodies with men for pleasure while unmarried are dead while they live(I Tim. 5:6). The same is true of men who use their bodies with women for pleasure out of marriage. They too are dead while they live. This is low, demoralizing and unacceptable human behavior to God. Yet mankind, in general, does not consider this lifestyle demoralizing or sinful. In fact, it is considered the the number one pleasure, and it the number one way of life for most of all mankind.
That is just one example of low quality of life that is unbecoming to creatures made in the image of God. Such a quality of life renders people of no more usefulness to God than physically dead people. in their graves. Moreover, the Biblical doctrine that all people who are not Christians are religiously dead to God has had a devastating effect on the human conscience. The idea that all are sinners has adversely affected the human species. The gospel proclaims, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Our own conscience tells us that we are not the kind of people we ought to be. Many Physicians, Psychiatrists and marriage counselors who have much to do with nervous troubles and emotional problems soon come to realize that thousands of well-meaning people are suffering mental distress and various nervous disorders as the result of a disturbed conscience. The conscience is an instinct of the human species, an inborn sense of right and wrong. It is an inborn tendency of human behavior to feel good when we do what we believe is right and to feel bad when we do what we believe is wrong. The conscience is a gift of God to help the human species to control their behavior. This does not exist in the animal species. This is a part of our nature because we are made in the image of God, and one aspect of God's nature is holiness and goodness. The conscience helps us to judge the rightness or wrongness of our conduct. However, the conscience is a creature of education, and thus our conscience is no better than our understanding of right and wrong.
Many social and medical specialists blame religion for the mental and emotional problems that beset the human race, and in particular the Christian religion. A psychiatrist visited my office one day many years ago and wanted to know what kind of a message I preached. He said, “One of your members under my care has guilty feelings, and she will not forgive her self. Don't you preach forgiveness to your people?” I assured him that the Christian religion does teach people to forgive themselves after God forgives them. Psychiatry and psychology owe their very existence and widespread use to the disturbed conscience of mankind. The conscience is one of the greatest problems of modern society. It can be so supersensitive that instead of producing a lovely and gracious character, one is constantly worried and disturbed about anything done or left undone. We hear often about people in high places and low places who freely confess they are not living in the way they should. To find peace of mind they turn to alcohol, pain killers, drugs of all kinds, pleasures of all kinds, alcohol clinics, drug rehab institutions, Psychiatrists etc. Indeed conscience can get completely out of hand even for Christians, and some Christians pursue Psychiatric help.
However, the blame cannot be placed on true religion, for God has placed the conscience in man, and it serves a good and useful service to mankind and helps them be the kind of people God wants them to be. The first truth taught in our text declares that man ought not to be the way he is, and for that reason he should have a disturbed conscience. A person who is dead in trespasses and sins opposes God's will and does not deserve a peaceful conscience. Another profound truth forcefully proclaimed in the text is that man and woman do not need to remain the way they are. Colossians 2:13,14 says, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead.” To be sure no one ought to be the way he is, but then no one needs to stay the way he is. That is the second message of the gospel. Man does not need to remain spiritually dead while physically alive. Man does not need to live with a disturbed conscience. He does not have to feel bad about himself. God created the conscience both to disturb and comfort man. God made the conscience to disturb man, and God alone can undisturb it. . The word of God says, “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:7). Neither Psychiatrists nor anyone else can make a promise like that.
How does God go about giving people who become Christians peace to their conscience which allows them to live with themselves and others in an undisturbed state of mind? God does this by giving people a special resurrection while they live and by circumcising them by Christ which adds them to God's heavenly family. In performing these two works on human beings God use a power similar to the power He used when He raised Jesus from the dead never to die again. He requires all to undergo a spiritual resurrection and requires all to submit to Christian circumcision. Under the religion of Christ Jewish circumcision is no longer commanded or acceptable God. If you are a Jew or Gentile you must submit to a new form of circumcision. This truth is set forth in Colossians 2:13 , “You, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Christ, having forgiven you all trespasses.” This means that as God raised up Jesus from physical death, He also raises up all who become Christians from a dead life of sin to new life in Christ. That is a spiritual resurrection from spiritual death to a righteous life serving Christ. We call this conversion. In addition, people in the world today have another problem; in God's sight all people on earth are uncircumcised, both Jews and Gentiles. Jewish circumcision as performed
under the law of Moses is no longer accepted by God.. Our text speaks of the uncircumcision of our flesh. Did you know that all Christians were uncircumcised people before they became Christians? Under the law of Moses circumcision was an ordinance which implied that Jews were to renounce or cut off all sin in their lives, and Jews who were circumcised were to be devoted to God and a holy life. That is what physical circumcision meant to a Jew under Moses. All Gentiles during the law of Moses were uncircumcised people; hence had no relationship with or acceptance with God. To receive God's acceptance and become part of God's people, they could submit to circumcision and become a Jew by religion. Did you know that before becoming a Christian you were in the same condition as ancient Gentiles who had no part in the salvation of the Jews? Circumcision separated Jews from Gentiles. under the Old Testament. Salvation was of the Jews, and Gentiles did not know what they worshiped.
But how do people submit to circumcision under the Christian religion?. Literal circumcision is not a command of the gospel, but spiritual circumcision is an absolute requirement. In the Christian religion circumcision separates believers from unbelievers, the saved from the lost, the children of God from the children of the devil, and Christians from non-Christians. There are no exceptions to this rule, even as it was under the law of Moses. Christian circumcision is explained in Colossians 2:10-12, “You are complete in Christ who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him by baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Christ from the dead.” Jews never had a circumcision like that! At eights days old, they had a small piece of the flesh removed, but at the time we were buried with Christ in baptism, God cut off from our bodies all sins we ever committed from the time of our earliest youth. That was a circumcision indeed. He cut off all sin from our flesh by forgiving us, and that is the exact time that our new spiritual life in Christ began. Our forgiveness and acceptance with God began with our circumcision and not before. We are distinctly informed that baptism, a burial in water, is Christian circumcision. What literal circumcision was to the Jewish religion, immersion in the baptismal water is to the Christian religion. If any have any hope of becoming children of God by Christ Jesus, they would do well to learn all they can about Christian baptism. Most of the religious would thinks it is a non-essential commandment and has nothing to do with saving people or making them children of God. That is a dangerous doctrine indeed and
shows a sad lack of knowledge concerning Christian circumcision. This was the birth of water and the Holy Spirit, without which Jesus said no one can enter into Christ's kingdom on earth. No one should tamper with the way new born children enter the physical world, and no one should tamper with how God gives birth to new children in His heavenly family on earth. In
Colossains 2 God tell us exactly how circumcised people are added to God's family in Christ at the time of faith, repentance and baptism. Peter referred to this very truth in I Peter 3:21,21 where said that as eight souls were save by water in the time of the flood even so baptism saves us now, and he adds that baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God.” No unbaptized person has a good conscience toward God.
Finally, our text in Colossians 2 reveals that one of the greatest revelations of the religion of Christ to all mankind is the announcement that man may change. Although man is not what he ought be, he does not have to remain the way he is. Christians are living examples to all mankind that change is a possibility. Christians are people who have changed their lives. Christ has revealed that anyone who has a sense of right and wrong, anyone who has a conscience that operates even in the slightest degree can change. Now if one completely destroys his conscience and has lost all sense of right and wrong, even Christ can't help him. The gospel only works with the cooperation of the conscience. Guard it well.
Sadly, there are great numbers of people in the world who do not
realize that the power is in them to change. Several years ago I was speaking to a man who had spent his life dead in trespasses and sins, living without hope and God in the world. When I talked to him about God and changing his life he said, “It is too late.” He thought he was too far gone to change. He made a bad mistake, for that is not true. It is never too late for a person to change who believes in God and believes the Bible is the word of God. When we are through changing, we are through!. Even as Christians grow older, 50, 60, 70, 80 years old, we must not stop learning. I am told our capacity to acquire knowledge drops no more than 1% a year. Contrary to that old proverb, we can teach an old dog new tricks. The one thing that changes more than anything else in the world is human life.
My heart goes out to many people in our world who have fallen so deeply into trespass and evil habits that they feel there is no hope for them. They are down-and-outers and feel utterly helpless to help themselves. They have fallen as low as humans can fall. They are alcoholics, drug addicts, addicted gamblers, addicted to the most sinful
pleasures of the body, addicted to homosexuality and addicted to child molestation, etc.. Their conscience is not completely destroyed; they know they ought not to be the way they are, but they lack the strength and a good enough reason to change. They try AAA, rehab and other cures, but they are of no avail. Some go jump off a bridge or put a bullet in their head. But I say to all these unfortunate people, thre is hope for you. You can change, and I can tell you how to do it if you are willing to be taught. There is no quick fix. It won't be easy, but if you will stay with me I have the answer for you.
The one and only hope for your condition is the one true God Jehovah. The only person who can exercise enough power, respect and influence in your life is God, but you don't know this. There is but one person who can reach you and that is the Being who made you in His own likeness . You might well respond, “How do you know that God can change us? The Bible says so. Romans 2:3,4 says, “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” Repentance is what causes people to change their lives.. Correctly defined, “Repentance is a change of the will, brought on by godly sorrow for sin, and leads to a change of life.” You need a change of will, and God causes people to change, and He can cause people to change when nothing and no one else in the world can do it. Why so? God is your Creator; He gave you life and breath. You owe Him for being alive. God has been good to you. You owe Him for that. He loves you because He made you. You owe Him for that. Because He made you and loves you, you have offended Him, hurt Him and have made Him feel bad for the way you have lived. If you are willing to change, He will forgive you and reconcile you to Himself and even let you go heaven. We owe him for that above all else. Because of this special relationship humans have to God and to no one else, humans will do more for God than anyone else. He loved us first, and no one can exercise the influence over our lives that He can. He is great enough and worthy enough and has the right to ask, request and help any human being to change his life for the better. You should change your life for His sake, not just your sake. You had no right to hurt Him and make Him feel bad. He deserves better things of you. That which is missing in everyone's life is God, and until you come to this realization you will never change. But if you will humble yourself, accept the blame for your condition, and feel sorry for letting Him down, that sorrow toward God will give you all the strength you need to make any change in your life. Here is the secret for your cure; here is what you must be able to say and believe, “For You O God and for You alone, whom I have greatly wronged I WILL change my life.” Good luck.