Afellow preacher and I once discussed a church that was struggling with apathy. He remarked, “The only thing that is going to help that church is for them to have a lot of necessary funerals.”
What he meant was that some of the members had a stranglehold on that church and were choking it to death. Until they died, the church couldn’t thrive. I’ve often thought about that statement, and realize now that my preacher friend spoke the truth — but not the kind of funerals he meant.
The apostle Paul, in Colossians 3, discussed the need of every Christian to kill and bury their worldly ways when they came into Christ. Each of us must undergo a personal funeral if we will ever grow to be what Christ has called us to become.
Paul describes this transformation in Colossians 3:2-3 as setting, “...your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Too many who claim Jesus as Lord have never experienced their own personal funeral.
What did Paul have in mind when he said that we had died? He spoke of our baptism and subsequent resurrection. He also spoke of the things which we left behind us from our old lives.
Verse five speaks of five things we are to put to death: “...immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” These demonic traits all describe the self-focused, fleshly, lustful person of the world. It describes those who worship themselves rather than God. The Christian must die to these attitudes.
Next, in verse eight, Paul speaks of six things that must be buried. They include, “...anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech from your mouth.” He also instructs Christians in verses 9-10 to not lie, “since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. ...”
These are the necessary funerals every Christian must experience. Unless we will each die to our past, we will be crippled in our attempts to live for the Lord. We can’t serve both our own lustful passions and the Lord.
After we each complete our funeral, we experience a new life. This new life includes eight godly traits we are to put back on. In verses 12-14, Paul says we are to dress ourselves in, “... a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other. ... Beyond all these things put on love. ...”
With these character traits, the Christian can reach the lost, edify fellow Christians, humbly bow before the throne of God and bless the church rather than choking it to death.
To share some wisdom from Andy Dufresne in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Unless we die to ourselves, we can never live to Christ.
Keith Cormier is minister of Southside Church of Christ in Killeen.