Sin Assassins

Assassins in the movies are always portrayed as cool, smart, and prepared for anything. They’re always one step ahead of their target, usually with a sarcastic quip immediately following their deadly shot. You’ll never see a bumbling, unmotivated assassin in the movies. Movie assassins don’t tell dad jokes. That kind of character just isn’t believable.

In Colossians 3:1 Paul commands believers to “put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” He tells us to be sin assassins. We’re supposed to kill the sin that is a part of the old self, but which still hangs around tempting us to return to that worthless way of living. The assassins we see in movies provide an excellent example for how we should go about killing sin.

Sin AssassinsFirst, we have to be cool. Sin thrives when we are irrational, exhausted, or stressed. Staying cool, in this context, means staying under control, emotionally. It is akin to the spiritual fruit of self-control. Stressful situations wear us down, emotionally, which creates an opportunity for temptation. It is harder to resist temptation when we are worn out. That’s why it’s important to maintain self-control no matter the circumstances.

Second, we have to be smart. We need to understand ourselves and the sins we are most prone to commit. Just as importantly, we need to know the devil’s tactics and how he likes to tempt us. Knowing our weaknesses and the devil’s schemes allows us to effectively put to death the sins of our earthly nature.

Third, we have to be prepared. This means stocking up on ammunition, which is the word of God. You cannot effectively kill sin if you don’t have any bullets! We need to store up Scripture in our hearts and minds. This can be done by memorizing individual verses, doing daily devotions, or taking on a Bible reading plan. Knowing the Bible is the best preparation for attacking sin.

Sin is trying to kill you. It’s trying to drag you away from Christ and prevent you from living his life in your body. You can’t afford to take it easy on sin. You must be merciless. Assassinate the sin in your life by being cool, smart, and prepared for anything.

What Is My Life?

Let’s play fill in the blank. _________________________ is my life.

What did you put in there? What is your life? Did you write in something that you love to do? If you’re a musician, you might have put in music, composing, songwriting, or your chosen instrument in the blank. If you’re an athlete, it could be competing, training, or playing the game. If you’re in ministry, like me, you might complete that sentence with preaching, evangelism, or coffee. (Let’s be honest, it’s coffee for a lot of people.)

There are as many answers to this question as there are people in the world. But is what we put in that blank worthy of being our life? If music is your life, what happens when you can no longer play? If sports are your life, what happens when you can no longer compete. (And what does this mean for Cleveland Browns fans?) If coffee is your life, what do you do when Starbucks’ prices go up, again? If something is your life, it should be greater than you, not less.

The apostle Paul provides an answer to this question in Colossians 3:4. “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Maybe he didn’t mean it the same way that we mean it, but the point is well-taken. Jesus is my life. That’s the answer of every Christian, whether they feel it is true or not. Your life is not music, sports, work, or coffee. Your life is Jesus.

Jesus is your life in a way that is different from those other things. Those things aren’t your life, but they might be your obsession. Jesus, on the other hand, is the One who sustains your life. He is your life because he gives you life. He is your life because he has conquered death, and can never die again. He is your life because he promises to give you a glorious resurrection into eternal life. You can live without a lot of things, and you can probably live without that one thing that is your obsession. But you cannot live for eternity without Jesus. He is your true, eternal, and abundant life.

Our society has come to believe a very funny thing: Desire is immutable. That’s a fancy word that means unchangeable. We believe that desire, and especially sexual desire, is not only impossible to change, but is fundamental to our identity. The person, then, is not simply a slave to desire, but is indistinguishable from it. And the person cannot change.

But the Scriptures tell us a different story. While the Bible affirms that we are desiring creatures, and that desire is an important part of who God created us to be, it also affirms that desires can change. Paul tells us that before we came to know Christ we were, in fact, enslaved to the desires of our wicked hearts. But now that Christ has revealed himself, we are, through faith, slaves to Christ. This means that we are set free to love what God loves.

The Education of DesireFar from being immutable, desire can be educated. Your heart can be taught to love what God loves, to long for the things of heaven. Your heart is transformed as Jesus lives his life through you.

The first lesson of the education of desire is to replace personal satisfaction with the glory of God. You need to learn to take a back seat to God. When you become a Christian, the aim (the telos) of your life changes. You no longer pursue the fulfillment of your every wish. Instead, you seek first the kingdom of God and the good things he desires for the world.

The second lesson of the education of desire is to find contentment in any circumstance. This is Paul’s hard won lesson. He experienced trial upon trial, but he learned to place his contentment in Christ, who stands above every circumstance. Circumstances are in a constant state of flux. If your contentment is dependent on how good things are in your life, you will never be truly content. Instead, learn to be content in the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The third lesson of the education of desire is to set your heart on things above. You must learn to direct your desires heavenward. This means that you must desire the joy of heaven and the justice of God above the pleasures of earth. It also means that you must root your desires in the things of God – human salvation, relational reconciliation, self-giving love, resurrection hope. You must long for these things, and you must long from these things. The heart of God is the only reliable source for the desires of men and women.

When it comes to the education of desire, we are all pupils of the Holy Spirit. He is at work in you to give you a new heart, one that is malleable in the hands of God. He can change you, and he is changing you. Your responsibility is to work with him, not against him. When wicked desires spring up in your heart, surrender them to the power of the Spirit and ask him to make you new.


“You can be better. You can do better.”

We keep telling ourselves these things, but they rarely seem to make a difference. Why is it so difficult to improve ourselves? Why does it seem like it’s always one step forward, two steps back? You tell yourself every morning, “Today, I’m going to be focused.” And then you scroll Facebook for the next 47 minutes. At the end of a long day you promise not to yell at the kids tomorrow. But when they don’t obey, Angry Parent rears its ugly head.

Everyone wants to be a better version of themselves, but self-improvement doesn’t help you get there unless you’re writing a book about it. We all need external motivation – and external assistance. The truth is that we can’t improve ourselves by ourselves. Someone has to walk alongside us – someone who can make a difference in our lives.

Self-ImprovementIn Colossians 2:20, Paul uses an odd phrase to describe what it’s like to become a Christian. He says, “you died with Christ.” Pay attention to that preposition. With. When you become a Christian, you die with Christ. That means that you are dead to the way you used to live. You have left that world and sinful way of life. This means that self-improvement isn’t about trying harder; it’s about living with the One with whom you also died.

Jesus died for the things that make you worse: sin, selfishness, immaturity, and all of the specific things that hold you back. When you put your faith in Christ, that part of you also died with him right up there on his cross. But the good news is that Jesus rose from the dead, and he gives us power to rise again, too. We rise again into the fullness of life that exists in him, a life characterized by faith, hope, and love. Our death and resurrection are a spiritual discipline symbolized by our baptism and that we have to walk out, with careful intentionality, every day.

And we are not alone. God has given us the Holy Spirit to walk alongside us. He fills us up with the power of God. He reminds us of the things that Jesus taught. He convicts us when we sin and restores us when we repent. He molds us into the image of Jesus.

You can be better. You can do better. But not by yourself. Only by living out the death and resurrection of Jesus as your own death and resurrection, and doing this in the power of the Spirit, can you truly become a better version of yourself.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? Based on the pictures in promotional church pamphlets, it looks exhilarating. It’s not. It’s exhausting. I mean, there is a rush when you reach the summit, but then you immediately feel the need to lie down and take a nap.

Which is exactly what I did after climbing Yosemite Falls. I carried a pack full of camera gear and water up the steep incline of the 3 mail trail. It must have weighed 60 pounds. When I reached the top, I lied down on a rock next to the river, a stone’s throw from where it crashes over the edge of cliff to the valley below, and fell asleep. It was the sweetest nap I’ve ever taken.

mountain top christianityWe often call our most intense encounters with God “mountain top experiences.” These are the good times, spiritually speaking. We feel close to God, hear from him personally, and experience significant growth. Spiritual experiences like these are necessary and valuable seasons of every believer’s life. But they are exactly that – seasons. So what happens when we chase these spiritual experiences all the time?

Bouncing from mountain top to mountain top is not how God intends for us to live. It is not normal to live that way. Instead, God wants to meet us at every elevation, whether that’s at the glorious summit or in the deep valley. Your life happens where you are, not where you think true spirituality demands you to be. Learning to be present to God in the face of your life’s circumstances is one of the most crucial lessons of your journey of discipleship.

Mountain top Christianity is an illusion. You’ll burn yourself out chasing the peaks, and you’ll foolishly come to believe that no true Christian can reside in the valley. Psalm 139:8 declares, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” God is where you are. He desires to meet you in the good times and the bad. Jesus took on human flesh to show us that God has run to us, that he intends to meet us in our need, to rejoice with us, to mourn with us, to help us along the way.

If you keep pursuing mountain top Christianity, an overly experiential perversion of the faith, you will eventually fail to encounter the risen Christ at all. Your faith will become about the experience rather than the Person. The reality of your journey with Jesus is that you will find exhilaration on the heights, but you will find nourishment in the depths. Do not neglect one for the other. Rather, abide closely with God no matter the geography.

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