Ending Idolatry by Walking in the Spirit – February 24, 2023

We said no to our idol, but it came back. We tried to overcome that sin, but we failed. We have all been there before. We understand the need to change, try to, and fail to change. We often conclude that this struggle will always be a part of our identity. Others might be able to overcome sin, but we cannot. Two weeks ago, we examined the need to murder our idols to overcome them. But we mentioned that we must employ one more critical step. Without this step, we will fail to overcome our idols.

In Ephesians 4, we observe that getting rid of our idols is like changing clothes. We must take off the old clothes and put on the new clothes. When we murder our idols, Paul relates that to removing dirty clothes. However, if we stop there, we accomplish nothing. We must still put on new clothes.

Then we must put on the new clothes. Paul calls this walking in the Spirit. But what does this mean? How do we do this? Paul demonstrates what this looks like in Ephesians and Colossians. First, we are told that we must clean ourselves, like taking a shower. So how do we take a spiritual shower and remove the filth of the idol and sin we must see destroyed in our lives? We do this through the Word of God. In John 17:17, Jesus informs us that we are sanctified through the Word of God. In Ephesians 5:26, Paul reveals that the Word is what cleanses us. God uses the Word in our lives to make us like him. God uses the Word in our minds to help us think rightly. To see the idol destroyed in our life, we must meditate on God’s Word to understand God and what He expects. However, all too often, we try and cheat on this step. We spend a few minutes reading a few verses and then fail to understand why change does not happen. Psalm 1 and Joshua 1 both reveal that the Christian must meditate on the Word of God for change to occur. This means that we think about the Word of God constantly. We memorize it and mull over it. Without this cleaning, we will fall prey to the idol again.

Second, we must take our idols seriously. In Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul gives us two instructions: to be angry at sin and not give sin a chance. In other words, we are to hate sin and build fences. First, we must hate sin. Paul tells us to be angry but not sin. What does this possibly mean? Isn’t anger a sin? Sinful anger is sin. Righteous anger is not a sin. What is righteous anger? It is anger that is directed toward our sin. It hates our sin. The major problem with our idols is that we love them. We follow them out of love. But we must learn to hate them. We indulge in sin because we love sin. We must learn to hate it. How? By recognizing what that sin costs. That sin, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, damned me to hell for all eternity. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, that sin sent God to the cross. That idol required Jesus’ blood.

Second, we must build fences around ourselves to protect ourselves. Paul tells us not to give place or opportunity to the Devil. Building fences for yourself is not legalism. It is safety. A lack of fences in your life is not a sign of spiritual maturity but spiritual stupidity. Often we sin because we place ourselves into situations where we will face unnecessary temptation. Proverbs twice tells us a wise man sees evil afar off and hides himself, but the foolish pass on and are punished. Wise people recognize that they are weak and keep themselves from unnecessary temptation. One way that you overcome sin is by avoiding it. Put up fences to protect yourself from unnecessary temptation.

Third, we are to speak the truth to ourselves (and our fellow believers). Often, we do not overcome our idols, and we do not overcome sin because we listen to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves. We listen as our flesh states that we need those idols and sins. We listen as our flesh tells us that we do not have the power to overcome them. But the reality is that we do indeed have the power and ability. Next week we will look more closely at how we accomplish this through Paul’s words in Colossians 3:16.