Doing Right Through God’s Spirit – March 10, 2023

As we finish this series of letters concerning the idols of our hearts, I want to challenge us with two final steps to murdering our idols. These steps stem from Philippians 2:12-13. As we examine moving from worshipping idols to worshipping God, we must understand that this track involves two rails. If we ignore either rail, we will fail to change. One rail we can label with the title: the Holy Spirit’s power. The other rail we can label with the title: Do right. Change involves both our effort and the Holy Spirit’s power.

First, to overcome our idols, we must walk in the Spirit. Paul challenges us in Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Paul challenges us not to grieve the Spirit. Theologically he is telling us to listen to the Spirit of God in our lives. God has given us a helper. His Spirit dwells in the believer and convicts us of sin. We must listen to this alarm. If we do not listen, we risk grieving the Spirit. What happens when we grieve the Spirit? We are told we end up with a seared conscience and no longer hear his prompting in our lives. So, listen to the Spirit. He will give you the power to topple your idol.

Finally, we overcome our idol (we overcome our sin) by doing right. We put off the sin and the idol and replace them with what is right. Notice in Colossians 3:12-17 that Paul gives us a list of actions we should be marked by. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

This is in contrast to what we were to put off. In Ephesians 4:24-32 Paul makes it even more apparent. “And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

You overcome sin by doing the opposite form of righteousness. How do you know when a thief is no longer a thief? Not when he stops stealing but when he starts sacrificially giving to others. This is true because the idol of self-gratification has been replaced by God.

Paul tells us that we put away falsehood by speaking the truth, we overcome sin by hating it and not giving the devil opportunity, we overcome stealing and self-gratification by self-sacrifice and giving, we overcome corrupt and sinful speech by encouraging speech and speech that builds up, and we overcome anger and conflict by kindness and love. How do you overcome your idol? How do you overcome your sin? By actively doing right. At first, it is hard (and honestly, it will always be a battle), but you regularly choose to kill your sin and idol by doing right. You choose to run from the situation, build your fences, and take the right actions.

We all struggle with idols. A significant part of overcoming them is admitting that we have them. Once we have acknowledged our idol problem, we can begin to identify them. Once we have identified them, we can start to overcome them. We overcome them by putting them off, murdering them, and with the assistance of God’s Word, God’s People, God’s Song, and God’s Spirit, we do what is right. Only then can we obey John’s challenge. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).