Mortify your members (2)
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
We shall now look at the last part of those things we are to mortify: covetousness, which is idolatry.
It seems strange that Paul says that covetousness is idolatry, so let us consider this in some detail.
Covetousness: what is it? In Exodus chapter 20 we have the ten commandments and the last one is:
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
This 10th commandment shows us what covetousness is. It is desiring anything that is not rightfully ours, such as our neighbour’s property, wife, servants etc.
Covetousness is self-seeking. One who covets wants things that are not intended for them. It is, essentially, the worship of self, hence the description of it being idolatry.
An example of this is Israel in their journeyings from Egypt to Canaan. God brought them out of Egypt to bring them into an inheritance in the land of Canaan. But in the wilderness they were constantly desiring the place that they left, Ex.16:2-3! This was the case from the beginning of their journeying and this was repeated throughout the 40 yrs.
Egypt was not the inheritance God had promised them, but it was in their heart, it was their treasure, their idol. In fact even in Egypt Israel were idolaters, Ezk.20:5-8. Neither was the land in the wilderness Israel’s inheritance. God spoke very specifically as to what their inheritance was not, for example Deut. 2:1-9. God warned them not to desire the things of Canaan, Lev.18:3-4.
In short God’s inheritance for them was not of Egypt, nor yet was of the wilderness, nor yet the ways of Canaan, but what He had shown them in His Covenant with Israel.
Later on they desired to be like other nations by demanding a king, I Sam.8:1-9. This was a rejection of God’s rule over them. They were desiring something other than what God had for them. Reading the history of Israel’s kings, apart from the rare exceptions, we see it invariably led the nation to a life of idolatry.
They were wanting an inheritance that belonged to other nations, they were seeking the ways of self, and the nation became enveloped with idolatry. Eventually this all led to judgement and banishment from the inheritance God had for them.
A2.2 Inheritance in Christ
As believers we have a God appointed inheritance in Christ
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and that fadeth not away reserved in heaven for you.
See also Col.1:11 & Eph.1:11. When writing this was Peter thinking of Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount, Mtt.6:19-21? We are exhorted to lay treasure up in heaven where nothing can corrupt it.
The NT has much to say about our inheritance in Christ. We see that we are co-heirs with Christ, Rom. 8:16-17.For the sake of brevity we will confine ourselves to the message of Colossians.
In Colossians we see something of what we have in Christ as a result of being born from above.
• We are translated from the kingdom of darkness, Col.1:12-13.
• We have redemption and the forgiveness of sins, Col.1:14.
• We have Christ in us the hope of Glory, Col.1:27.
• We have received Christ, Col.2:6.
• We are complete in Christ, Col.2:10.
• We have the reality in Christ, and not the shadow of the Law, Col.2:17.
• We are connected directly to the head, Col.2:19.
• We are baptised into His death and raised into His resurrected life, Col.2:12.
• Christ is our life, Col.3:4.
This is what God has done for us and in us. Therefore our rightful desires are to be towards Christ, Col.3:1-4. We are not to seek, that is to covet, the things of the world from which we have been delivered, Col.2:20.
We then have to work out that salvation in our day to day living. In the Colossian context, desiring the wrong thing things would include: enticing words (2:4); men’s philosophy (2:8); legalism (2:16); mysticism (2:18-23)- this includes angelology and asceticism.
There are many other things which we can wrongly desire, but we have highlighted those which are relevant to Colossians. We are exhorted to keep ourselves from idols I Jn.5:21. So this implies then we are to keep ourselves from desiring the things of this world, of which John spoke earlier in his letter, I Jn.2:15-17.
The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not, eyes have they, but they see not. They have ears, but they hear not, neither is there any breathe in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them, so is everyone that trusteth in them.
This description of the physical idols of the heathen is plain. But it also shows the underlying principles of all idols and idolatry, whether tangible or intangible.
Considering the errors mentioned in Colossians, spiritually, they are dead, they do not speak, nor hear. There is no life in them. The Psalmist goes even further. Those who make them and trust them are like unto them. Either because they make the idol in their image or as they worship it they conform to what it is, or a combination of the two.
An example might be a brother, who has an interest in reaching out to the cults. They study them, find answers to all the errors, and seek to persuade some of its members to turn to Christ. The motive is good, wanting to see souls saved from these spiritually destructive systems. However there is a danger, if one becomes obsessed with it to the point of only desiring this, the brother can become like the cults in attitude. For example, becoming intolerant and arrogant towards those who disagree with them, on anything.
The only safe course in any ministry is to keep focussed on Christ and not allow anything to dominate one’s life at the expense of the walk with Christ, not even a calling to any ministry. In II Chr.31:1 We see that under Hezekiah’s reforms Israel returned to their inheritance once the idols were cast down. This is a great lesson! If anyone has fallen into this error then on repentance one can see restoration.
A2.4 Final thoughts
We are to mortify, put to the cross these behaviours. Our desires are to be on Him and not on those things which are below. The world (Egypt), self-works (the wilderness), the flesh with its passions and desires (the ways of Canaan) are to be crucified. In the context of Colossians we have particularly emphasised . philosophy, legalism and mysticism.
The bottom line is that God Himself is our inheritance, just as God was to be the inheritance of the OT priests, Deut.18:1-2, God is also our inheritance, Ps.73:25-26; Lam.3:24.
Therefore let our desires be towards Him and seek those things above.