Thursday, August 29, 2013


Luke 13:10-17

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 

11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 

12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 

13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 

16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Context is important.  We like to have the support of others in our devotionals, and so we turn to publications like Our Daily Bread or Forward Day By Day, but we then are getting our scripture, usually only one verse at a time, through the lenses of someone else.  Even a timeless book like My Utmost for His Highest is being filtered through Oswald Chambers' lenses.  Study Bibles with footnotes are being filtered through the notes, and even ME, your preacher, should be listened to before you go to the scriptures yourselves and confirm what I preach.  Are you alone with the scriptures?  No, the Holy Spirit of God is with you, revealing things to you that will enhance your knowledge of God and your walk with Him.

When we read this passage about the woman healed by Jesus, certain things stand out.  First, there is the line, "she had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years."  Second, Jesus himself says, "whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years."  We know there are many layers to this passage about healing someone on the sabbath, etc, but in the back of our minds, what do these two lines make us think?  It's not my fault!  I've been in bondage to the devil.  You've heard the phrase from comics, "the devil made me do it?"  That's the kind of theology that we get.  It's hard to feel convicted of sin when you think that the devil made you do it, that you're merely in bondage to Satan, and once Jesus frees you from bondage, you will be okay.

Let's look at context.  Here are the previous two passages in Luke 13.  Luke didn't just have some random stories and say to himself, where should I sick these?  Well, I've got some space at the beginning of chapter 13, I'll cram them there!  These passages are placed here for context.  Listen:

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 

2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 

3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 

4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 

5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 

7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 

9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

Verses 1-5 is summarized by Paul in Romans 3:23.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All sin, and unless we repent, we are dead in our sins, even the woman healed a few verses later, no matter how many years she has been in bondage.  We are still guilty of crimes against God and humanity.  We can be both in bondage AND guilty.

Verses 6-9 are about the Christian bearing fruit.  The Father wants to cut down the tree that doesn't bear fruit, and the Son pleads our case for us.  "Give me a year to nurture the young Christian, so he will bear fruit."  We know Jesus will succeed, because the Lord will not be stopped.

So, taking context into consideration, we have three things that Christ does for us: he leads us to repentance, he nurtures us to bear fruit, and he delivers us out of bondage.  Isolating part of the chapter gave us an incomplete view of the big picture.  Including the rest of the chapter gave us a more complete picture.  Imagine adding the other chapters in the book of Luke and adding in the rest of the New Testament.  Then adding the Old Testament.  Think of taking the whole Bible into consideration when you study a verse.

One more piece of context: here are the verses after the healing of the woman:

18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 

19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 

21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 

We have a transitory word here: then.  Other translations have "so" or "therefore."  Jesus is linking what he says next to the rest of the chapter before it.  Remember, we have learned that Jesus does three things: lead us to repentance, nurture us to bear fruit, and deliver us from bondage.  THEREFORE, the kingdom of God is then compared to a tiny seed that grows into a big tree and yeast that spreads through dough.

What are Jesus first words of his ministry?  "Repent for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near."  Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven with him.  It is here now.  Timothy Keller describes it as being laid overtop the Godless world.  The world is fading away but is not gone yet.  The kingdom of heaven is here but is not fully here yet.  We are caught in the middle.  We see the secular world but the kingdom remains invisible to us.  Why?

Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.  As we undergo the three things Jesus describes before: repentance, fruitbearing, and deliverance, we begin to cease living in the secular world and begin living in the kingdom of heaven.  It is here now.  We can be part of it now.  The worldly world begins to fade and become unreal.  The heavenly kingdom begins to be seen and become more real.  The mustard tree grows a little larger.  The yeast spreads a little more.

Think about times you have been away from a certain aspect of everyday life.  Let's say you canceled your cable and haven't seen a commercial in months.  Then you're in a restaurant and you see a commercial--it's jarring, because it has ceased to be real.  The real world was the one you were living in, the one without commercials.

Jesus brought the kingdom of God through the incarnation.  He gave us access to the kingdom through his death and resurrection.  The Holy Spirit is with us now, in order to bring us to repentance, to nourish us so that we may bear fruit, and to deliver us from Satan's bondage.  The kingdom is real, and it is here.

And that is why context is important.  Now go read Luke 13 and confirm.

Friday, August 23, 2013


It's storytime, and here are some dark, disturbing stories from the Bible:

Once upon a time, there was a city called Sodom and another called Gemmorah, and there were other cities on that plain with them, and these cities were entirely corrupt.  The Lord, one day, told his servant Abraham that he was going to destroy the cities on the plain.  Abraham negotiated with him and God promised that if he could find ten righteous people on the plain, he would spare the cities.  To make a long story short, the cities were destroyed.  THE END.

Now, wait, there is an epilogue.  The Greek word means "afterword."  Some important detail comes after the story and needs to be told.  The detail in our story is this: Lot and his Family, who lived in Sodom, were spared by the Lord.  Abraham didn't ask God to spare them, he just did, and it seems that the reason he spared Lot and his family was his relationship with Abraham.  He was Abraham's nephew.  This relationship seems to be the reason for Lot's salvation.

Here is another story: Once upon a time there was a group of people called the Israelites, and they were being held as captive slaves in Egypt.  God freed them from the slavery there, and brought them into the wilderness.  The entire time in the wilderness, the Israelites complained bitterly.  Even though the Lord fed them and gave them water and never allowed their clothes to wear out, they complained.  When he brought them to the land he promised them, a land flowing with milk and honey, they refused to go in, because they were scared.  So, the Lord told them they would die in the wilderness, and they did.  THE END.

Epilogue: God's servant Moses pleaded with him to spare them, so the Lord said that the generation that had been born in the desert would be spared. It seems that he spared them solely on their relationship with Moses.

New story: Once upon a time there was a nation of Israel, a kingdom, and it had a great king named David, but after he died the leadership became lacking.  The kings married and allowed their citizens to marry pagan wives, who brought their pagan idols, and the people of Israel began to worship those false Gods instead of the one true God.  As a result, God allowed the pagan empires around Israel to invade and destroy the kingdom.  The survivors were sent into exile and dispersed.  THE END.

Epilogue: This is from Jeremiah 23:

7 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, “As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,” 

8 but “As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.” Then they shall live in their own land.

It appears that the Lord has spared the remnant that were exiled and that they were allowed to come back home.  Why did he do this?

5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 

6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

It appears that the Lord saved the remnant for the sake of King David, because of Israel's relationship with David.

New Story: Once upon a time there were people called Christians, and they followed a man named Jesus.  Now the name of Jesus caused great violence and strife.  The Christians weren't violent, but non-Christian reactions to them were violent, simply because they hated Jesus.  Jesus himself said this would happen:

Luke 12:49-56
12:49 "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

12:50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!

12:51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

12:52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;

12:53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

12:54 He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens.

12:55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens.

12:56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

He even said in the last three verses above that things were only going to get worse, and that it would be as obvious as black clouds on the horizon.  Christians sought refuge in the Church, to be with other Christians, but these words from Jeremiah 23 showed what that would be like:

16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you; they are deluding you. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 

17 They keep saying to those who despise the word of the Lord, “It shall be well with you”; and to all who stubbornly follow their own stubborn hearts, they say, “No calamity shall come upon you.”

Today we find many of our churches telling us either that there is no such thing as sin or that if you have faith nothing bad will happen to you.  Both of these extremes are lies that have undermined the gospel and the church.

We don't know how this story ends, because we are in the middle of it, but we can predict that it will end in one of the previous three ways--or a combination of all three: fire from the sky or natural disaster, death in the wilderness, or war and exile.  Think of the world today.  All three of these things are happening already.  THE END.

Epilogue: remember that Jesus guy, whose name was the cause of all the problems?  It is because of our relationship with him that we, the remnant, will be spared, just like Lot, just like the Israelites, just like the remnant.  We will be spared because of Jesus, because of this righteous Branch.

Now, is it REALLY because of the relationship that we are spared?  Well, yes, but it is also because of WHO we have the relationship with, what he DID.  Let's look at Abraham first.  It wasn't just his relationship with Lot that spared Lot, it was what he did for Lot.  He always gave Lot the best, gave him the first choice, and more importantly, in Genesis 14, he hunted down a bunch of kingdoms who had kidnapped Lot.  Abraham and 180 soldiers risked their lives to rescue Lot.  Abraham lay down his life for Lot. This happened long before the destruction of the cities on the plain and the Lord's sparing of Lot.

Moses, long before the destruction of the original generation of Israel in the wilderness, threw himself on the ground before the Lord and said TAKE ME INSTEAD.  Moses lay down his life for Israel.  The Lord later spared the next generation of Israelites.

David countless times went to war to fight for Israel's survival.  In fact, it was the one time he didn't go to war when he should have that his kingdom began to collapse.  Lord spared the remnant later in time for the sake of David laying down his life for his kingdom.

And now our story: we will be spared because of our relationship with Jesus, but it is because of what Jesus did in the past, his dying in our place, his laying down his life for us, his not throwing himself down on the ground like Moses but being raised up on the cross that saves us.  We were kidnapped by the forces of darkness and he rode out into the wilderness to rescue us.  He fought death, the devil, and hell for our souls, and he won.

This happened long ago, but the effects of his dying for us are still in effect.  Jesus Christ IS RISEN.  The effects of his victory over the death are still here.  No matter what happens.  No matter if fire comes from the sky and burns our bodies up, no matter if we starve to death miles from any food or water, no matter if our families are killed and we are dragged into foreign lands.  We are spared because of Jesus' love for us and his laying down his life for us.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Some Words from J. Gresham Machen

The Christian doctrine of the atonement, therefore, is altogether rooted in the Christian doctrine of the deity of Christ. The reality of an atonement for sin depends altogether upon the New Testament presentation of the Person of Christ. And even the hymns dealing with the Cross which we sing in Church can be placed in an ascending scale according as they are based upon a lower or a higher view of Jesus' Person. At the very bottom of the scale is that familiar hymn:

Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross
That raiseth me.

That is a perfectly good hymn. It means that our trials may be a discipline to bring us nearer to God. The thought is not opposed to Christianity; it is found in the New Testament. But many persons have the impression, because the word "cross" is found in the hymn, that there is something specifically Christian about it, and that it has something to do with the gospel. This impression is entirely false. In reality, the cross that is spoken of is not the Cross of Christ, but our own cross; the verse simply means that our own crosses or trials may be a means to bring us nearer to God. It is a perfectly good thought, but certainly it is not the gospel. One can only be sorry that the people on the Titanic could not find a better hymn to use in the last solemn hour of their lives. But there is another hymn in the hymn-book:

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o'er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.

That is certainly better. It is here not our own crosses but the Cross of Christ, the actual event that took place on Calvary, that is spoken of, and that event is celebrated as the center of all history. Certainly the Christian man can sing that hymn. But one misses even there the full Christian sense of the meaning of the Cross; the Cross is celebrated, but it is not understood.

It is well, therefore, that there is another hymn in our hymn-book:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

There at length are heard the accents of true Christian feeling--"the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died." When we come to see that it was no mere man who suffered on Calvary but the Lord of Glory, then we shall be willing to say that one drop of the precious blood of Jesus is of more value, for our own salvation and for the hope of society, than all the rivers of blood that have flowed upon the battlefields of history.

from Christianity and Liberalism, 1923

Running Toward the Danger

I've preached on faith before, but as I go through the Bible, I find that there are many more layers to faith, and this week my eyes opened to yet another layer of true faith. When we look at Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," our unbelieving friends think that this means that having faith is when you believe in something without evidence it is true or exists at all.

We know that evidence exists for what we believe.  Experiential evidence exists for God, and yet the unbeliever's eyes are veiled, and he cannot see the evidence, so he does not believe the evidence is there at all.  Faith is not believing IN something but believing that something.  Faith isn't believing IN God, but believing God, believing in what God says to us in the Bible, that he is truthful and trustworthy.  That is faith.

Our gospel passage reveals another layer to faith:

Luke 12:32-40
12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

12:35 "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;

12:36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.

12:37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.

12:38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

12:39 "But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.

12:40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

We have seen the analogy Jesus makes, when he compares himself to a thief in the night.  There are several places in scripture where this comparison happens.  But we stop looking at the analogy when we think that Jesus is only comparing the unexpected nature of his coming.  Look at last two verses.  Yes, Jesus is talking about the untimeliness of his approach, but he is also comparing himself to an unpleasant person--a thief.  If the owner knew when the thief was coming, HE WOULD BAR THE DOOR.

Let's look at this another way.  If the owner knew when SANTA CLAUS was coming, he would . . . THROW THE DOORS OPEN WIDE and welcome Santa into the home.  My kids have been expecting you!  They set out milk and cookies!  Let's exchange gifts!  Jesus does not compare himself to Santa Claus or anything like Santa Claus.  He compares himself to a thief.  The implication is that perhaps you may not want to see Jesus.  You want to protect yourself from Jesus.  It's an assumption that he is going to fill us with joy, but what if he is going to fill us with dread?

Look earlier in the passage.  We have another analogy.  Jesus is comparing himself to a slavemaster.  Now, I know that different kinds of master/slave relationships existed throughout history.  We have the dreaded violence of American slavery to the indentured servitude of Israel's slavery.  Regardless of the kind of slavery, the master/slave relationship was never comfortable, because someone was in control of your freedom.  You were at the mercy of that person's whims.  Even if they treated you nice, there was the possibility that the master might be in a bad mood.  So, the thought of the master coming home usually is an unpleasant experience.  The slave is not going to bar the door against the master like the homeowner is the thief, but there is going to be apprehension there.

Now, here is the twist in verse 37: blessed are those slaves who welcome the master in the house, because he is going to SERVE THEM!  Here is the unexpected twist.  The slave has moved toward the danger and has found something good on the other side.  The master serves them.  This is true faith: not just believing God, but believing God when danger is involved, moving toward the danger with the faith that peace lies on the other side.  Christianity is not a cake walk.  Danger is usually involved.  True faith is moving toward that danger instead of away from it.

God is spoken of throughout the scriptures as an unquenchable, consuming fire.  We've heard this before, but have we ever really thought about it?  What does an animal do when it senses a forest fire?  It runs away!  It's instinct, and unless we are a firefighter, we are going to do the same thing--run away!  Now, imagine seeing God face-to-face.  Are you going to move toward him or run away?  If God is a consuming fire, our instinct is to run away.  Let's say we have been feeding our animal nature all our lives.  The instinct is going to win.  Let's say we have read our Bibles, and understand through meditation and prayer and revelation that God the consuming fire is something that we need to run TOWARD when we see him.  He is dangerous, but there is peace on the other side.

When we go through the roll call of faith in the rest of Hebrews 11, we can see something new now.  I think of my prayer life, and it consists of a laundry list of "please take this cup froms."  I'm constantly asking God to reverse the danger.  I find out someone has cancer, and I pray to God, "take the cancer away."  Sometimes the cancer does go away, but sometimes it does not.  Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "take this cup from me," but then he prayed, "not MY will but THY will be done."

When Noah found out about the flood, he didn't pray, "please undo that, God."  He built the ark and had the faith that God was going to get him through the danger to the peace on the other side.  When Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, he never thought that God would stop him from doing it.  The danger was going to happen, he knew.  Now, God DID stop his hand, but Abraham never assumed that would happen.  His faith involved facing the danger head on and getting to the peace on the other side, which, to Abraham, was God raising Isaac from the dead.  This is true faith.  Not running away from the danger but meeting it head on, having faith that God is going to get you to the other side.

And God would never force us to do anything he didn't do himself first.  Jesus prayed in the garden.  He asked for the cup to be taken away, but then he obeyed the Father's will and met the danger head on.  He met the cross head on.  The cross is a dangerous thing, but there is peace on the other side.  The cross is scary.  It involves pain.  It involves death.  But the other side is the end of pain.  The other side is the end of death.  When we are told to pick up our cross, we are not being given fancy symbolism.  We are told to meet the danger head on, to run at it, to ignore our instincts.  The Bible trains us to ignore the animal instinct.  This is the difference between heaven and hell.  Hell is not the fire.  Hell is the outer darkness, the place to where we have run to when we ran away from God.  God is the fire.  We have to have the faith to head into the fire, to embrace it, to have the faith that God is going to get us to the other side, to peace, to reconciliation, to redemption, to everlasting life.

Friday, August 9, 2013

How are Christians to use the law?

From the Savoy Declaration of Faith:

19.5 The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it: neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

19.6 Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet it is of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law, as a covenant of works. So as, a mans doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace.

19.7 Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, required to be done.


Luke 12:13-21
12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me."

12:14 But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?"

12:15 And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

12:16 Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly.

12:17 And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?'

12:18 Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

12:19 And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'

12:20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'

12:21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

If it is one thing that the secular world and the sacred world can agree on it, it's that we should not build up an abundance of possessions.  Frank Capra exhibited that theme in his movies You Can't Take It With You and It's A Wonderful Life.  Who is the richest man in Bedford Falls?  George Bailey, of course, who had nothing.  Mr. Potter, who had everything, was unhappy and bitter.  This theme is so overwrought in our culture, we can either think of Jesus' statement as redundant or one of the few statements that permeates all the world of common sense.  Of course we should follow this teaching, no matter what religion or non-religion we follow.

But look at what else Jesus tells the man: "Be on your guard against ALL KINDS OF GREED."  The man wasn't asking Jesus for more stuff, he was asking him to arbitrate between him and his brother in regards to the inheritance.  What's wrong with that?  Doesn't he deserve fairness?  Look at the parable Jesus tells: the man in the parable is only providing for himself, so that he doesn't starve.  That seems sensible, doesn't it, at least by today's standards?  Making sure we have food and clothing are necessities, right?  What problem would God have with that?

ALL KINDS OF GREED: accumulation of stuff is only one SYMPTOM of the greed Jesus is talking about.  What Christ is talking about has more facets than accumulating stuff.  It involves the "sensible" things, too, like inheritance and providing for oneself.  Greed is so much more than getting lots of stuff.  Let's look at what Paul says in our epistle reading:

Colossians 3:1-11
3:1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,

3:3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

3:4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).

3:6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.

3:7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

3:8 But now you must get rid of all such things--anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.

3:9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices

3:10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

3:11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Did you notice the laundry list of earthly sins: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed?  This isn't a list to chose from, as if to say, well, I guess I was PASSIONATE before I came to Christ.  No, all of these things came TOGETHER.  And the giveaway is the parenthetical after greed, WHICH IS IDOLATRY. Greed IS idolatry.  We think of idolatry as anything that can be worshiped in God's place.  Idolatry is much more than that, just as greed is much more than the accumulation of stuff.  Idolatry is the gateway to worshiping other things.  It is the provider of idols.  Just as God is the provider of blessings, idolatry is the provider of sins.  There are seven deadly sins, and when we look at them--lust, greed, sloth, etc--they don't seem so bad, but they are deadly because they are gateway sins to a plethora of other sins, sins like the ones Paul lists: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire.  The inward idolatry of greed led us to the other, outward, physical sins in the list.

Think of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.  What is the first thing the son does?  He asks his father for his inheritance early.  Sounds like the man who asks the question of Jesus in our gospel reading.  What does the Prodigal Son do with his inheritance?  He blows it on fornication, impurity, passion, and evil desire.  The initial greed was a gateway to the other sins.

Did you notice the other laundry list?  But now you must get rid of all such things--anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Have you ever been in the presence of people talking about finances?  Have you been in the midst of a discussion about money with friends or relatives?  It may start out as a peaceful discussion, but as it progresses, the anger builds, the wrath increases, the hatred heats up, and then irrelevant attacks on character come into play, and all the while the "F" bomb starts dropping everywhere.  When we were not followers of Christ, we were idolaters (there is no middle ground).  The idolatry took the form of greed, and all those symptoms we read about in Paul were our behavior.  

So, what is the solution?  We know the solution came with following Christ, but we still get dragged into the old style of living.  Otherwise, why would Paul continually exhort us to set our minds on heavenly things and put to death earthly things?  Shouldn't our new lives in Christ just happen automatically?  No, our change in life is a process.  But, the good news is that God will not fail us.

Just as the idolatry of greed is a gateway sin into darkness, so God himself is a gateway.  We cannot think, however, that he is a sugar daddy who is a gateway to more stuff, health, wealth, happy family, successful career.  We end up in the same predicament as the man who built bigger barns.  No, look at this line from Paul:

3:4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

God is the gateway, and he is also the destination.  Christ IS our life.  The Holy Spirit connects us to Christ.  God transforms us into the model of his Son.  We look to Christ for everything, and he doesn't give us good stuff.  He gives us HIMSELF.  He gives us his teaching, he gives us his joy, he gives us his suffering, he gives us his death.  These may not all be comfortable things, but they are Christlike things.  They are the result of lives whose destination is heavenly.  Christ is the gateway to the cross.  The cross is the gateway to everlasting life.  We can't just take part of Christ and leave the rest.  We can't just take the good parts.  We have to take the suffering, too.  Suffering produces endurance, preparing our souls for everlasting life.