Archive for January, 2010
Having introduced the biblical warning that idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God (part 1) and having defined idolatry of the heart in order to expose our idols (part 2), I want finally to suggest how we are to replace the substitute gods of idolatry with the real God – Jesus Christ, our Lord.
How are we to replace the substitute gods of this world for the one, true and living God?
First, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! You need a new nature that only comes through God’s grace and faith in Christ (Ezekiel 36:25-27; John 3:1-21). The only way to flee idolatry is to replace the idols of you heart with Jesus Christ, the only one who is worthy of praise and glory and honor.
Second, you must continue believing, trusting in Jesus Christ, our redeemer!
1. Believe you are a new creature, raised to walk in newness of life (Col. 3:1; cf. Rom. 6). In other words, we must remember who we are in Christ instead of believing Satan’s lies that tempt us to despair. You must speak the gospel to yourself daily, moment by moment.
2. Let your mind be consumed with heavenly things (Col. 3:1-4). You must have a proper perspective, an eternal perspective. You must be so heavenly minded in order to be of any earthly good. So many times we are so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. Do not overvalue the things of this world.
3. Put to death the earthly cravings for sin and evil that remain in you (Col. 3:5-11). We put to death the desires of the flesh by remembering who we are in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) and looking to the Spirit in faith to guide us (Romans 8:13-14; Galatians 5:16-24).
4. Put on the heavenly characteristics God is working in you now (Col. 3:12-15). This is the positive counterpart to putting to death the cravings of the flesh by faith.
5. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly and encourage one another (Col. 3:16). The word of the gospel is the source of good news that reveals God and His faithfulness to all who believe. This gospel word is the source of our hope, and we should encourage one another by speaking this gospel to one another regularly.
6. Do everything in the name of Christ and for His glory (Col. 3:17). As you do something, ask, “Can I do this in the name of Christ?” Ask, “Can I do this for the glory of Christ?”
Little children, keep yourselves from idols, for idolaters have no place in the kingdom of God!
If we are to identify and expose the idols of our heart, then we must first understand what idolatry is.
What is idolatry of the heart?
The Puritan David Clarkson calls it secret or soul idolatry. Since the Bible reminds us that our problem is a problem of the heart, then let us call it heart idolatry. In contradistinction to open idolatry, Clarkson proposes that “when the mind and heart is set upon anything more than God; when anything is more valued, more intended; anything more trusted, more loved, or our endeavors more for any other thing than God, that is soul worship, which is due only to God (and that which he most respects and calls for) given to other things besides him. And this is as true, as heinous idolatry, as the former, though not so open, discernible, nor so much observed.”
What is an idol of the heart?
As you can see, anything can become an idol. As Brian Rosner suggests, “a god is that which one loves, trusts, and serves above all else” (New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, “Idolatry”).
Those who follow the cravings of the flesh and replace God with substitutes and do not repent will not inherit the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:3-6). Therefore, it is imperative that we identify and expose our idols in order to replace them with the one, true, living God.
How can you identify and expose your idols?
Based on Clarkson’s definition above, here are some questions that may begin to expose some of the idols of our hearts:
1. What occupies your mind and heart more than God does? What do you most think about? What do you daydream about?
2. What do you value more than God? You know you have an idol that you value more than God when you are enraged if you were to lose it.
3. What is your aim, purpose in life? What do you live for, work for? Why do you wake up in the morning?
4. What do you trust/hope in more than God? Who is your savior? Doctors, government, wealth, fame, friends, family?
5. What do you love, desire, delight in more than God? What consumes your time, money? What brings you most joy?
The good news of the gospel is that God is faithful to provide a way out or through temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). In other words, the Lord will not allow His children to be tested to the point that their faith will be obliterated. He is faithful.
We must believe! We must trust God, love God, hope in God, delight in God more than any created thing, so that our thoughts and affections are consumed with God and our chief aim is His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
See part 1 of this post.
In a city full of temples for false gods (Poseidon, Aphrodite, Asklepios, Apollo, Demeter, Kore . . .), the apostle Paul warned the Corinthians to flee idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14). Paul’s heart was to present everyone mature in Christ (Col. 1:28-29), so in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul exhorted the Corinthians to run in such a way as to win the prize! The Corinthian Christians found themselves at a crossroads – whether to continue in Christ or be swept away by their idolatry just as had happened to Israel (1 Cor. 10:1-5). Paul urged them to press on!
Now, we may not have temples to such gods in our cities, but be assured that we have created manageable deities that function similarly; therefore, we require the same warning today. In such a context the Bible’s message is clear: Those who crave sin, that is idolaters, will not enter into the kingdom of God. This is a consistent warning from the apostle Paul (Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-5). It is because of such sinful cravings that the wrath of God is coming (Eph. 5:6).
This is the example (type) unbelieving Israel leaves for us (1 Cor. 10:6-11). Unbelieving Israel loved self and pleasure and craved sin (Ex. 32-Golden Calf; Num. 25-Baal of Peor; Num. 21-craving food and water; Num. 11-craving food and water/grumbling) more than they craved God – this is idolatry!
This is the danger in which the Corinthians found themselves (1 Cor. 6:9-10). If the Corinthians persisted in craving sin, which is idolatry, then like Israel before them, they too would be disqualified from entering God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 10:5). Paul’s basic argument is that you cannot participate in Christ (represented by the celebratory meal-Lord’s Supper) and at the same time participate in demons (represented by the celebratory meal in the temples) (1 Cor. 10:14-22).
The sad truth is that we face the same danger today in our culture (Matt. 6:24), though not with physical idols. Our temptation is with idols of the heart. The evidence of our idolatry is in the sacrifices we make to our substitute gods: marriage, children (born and unborn), health, etc.
If this is the case (that we are prone to idolatry of the heart), then what can we do? What must we do? Paul points us in two directions. First, Paul warns that we should take heed lest while we think we have stood, we fall (1 Cor. 10:12). In other words, we should examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). Therefore, I suggest we begin with examining ourselves in order to identify and expose our idols. Secondly, we are to flee idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7, 14).
In the next post I will define idolatry in order that we may identify and expose our idols by asking certain questions of ourselves. Then in the third post I will address the issue of fleeing idols. In the meantime, I would highly encourage you to do three things:
1. Listen to Tim Keller’s address at The 2009 Gospel Coalition Conference where he addresses the issue of idolatry – The Grand Demythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry.
2. Read David Clarkson’s sermon titled, “Soul Idolatry Excludes Men from Heaven.”
In 1 Corinthians 10:6-11, the apostle Paul reminds the new covenant church not to crave evil. Paul recalls Israel’s past sinful cravings which led to idolatry as an example and a warning that those who persist in sin will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 10:5; see also 6:9-10). Yet for some of us, recalling the past is not enough to keep us from sin. The battle with sin can be such an overwhelming struggle at times because we underestimate how sin operates. This is why understanding the nature of sin is so important. If we are to endure temptation and overcome sin, we must understand that sin is deceptive, divisive and destructive.
Sin is deceptive in a variety of ways. Satan deceives us into thinking that what we are doing is not sin (1 Corinthians 10:12). Isn’t this precisely what took place in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3)? Also, Satan’s schemes are so deceptive that once we are involved in sin, we begin to believe there is no way out, but this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that the temptations we face are common to everyone (1 Corinthians 10:13), and because Jesus understands our temptations (Hebrews 4:14-16), we can go to Him for help in our time of need, for God is faithful and provides a way of escape, so we can endure the temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Sin is divisive in that it separates us from God (1 John 1:1) and from each other (1 Corinthians 10:17). The prodigal son in Luke 15 understood that when he sinned, he sinned against God first, then against his father. This is the very perspective we must have. When we choose to sin, we sin against God, disrupting our fellowship with him; we sin against those affected by our sin, hurting them; and we sin against the church, affecting our fellowship with one another.
Sin is destructive. We see everyday how sin destroys people’s lives. Even for believers, after we have experienced the wonderful forgiveness God offers, the consequences of sin still linger. David’s life testifies to this fact (2 Samuel 11-24). Learning from our past and understanding the nature of sin are helpful defensive strategies against temptation and sin; however, glorifying God in everything (1 Corinthians 10:31) is the most important aspect of Christian living. When our life is consumed by a passion for God’s glory, we will delight in Him and nothing else will do. You see, the Christian life is not about a list of don’ts; it’s about a gift given to us in which we are to delight: Jesus Christ, the beloved Son. When we get to the point in our lives that Christ satisfies our every longing, then the things of this world will loosen their hold on us. This is what brings glory to God. As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” May Christ satisfy us all!
As news and pictures continue to come out of Haiti, our hearts should grieve with those who are grieving, and we should seek to help those in need, for that is pure and undefiled religion – to visit orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). If this is not distress, then I don’t know what is. So then, what can we do?
Learn about what’s happened in Haiti! Unfortunately, we Americans can tend to be desensitized to difficulties and crises that do not directly affect us. Be sure to follow the news coming out of Haiti. The Drudge Report is linking major news stories about Haiti, and here is a link to the Gospel Coalition blog with some news sources on Haiti.
Grieve with those who are grieving! Ask the Lord to move your heart for the Haitian people and the distress they are experiencing. If you are not moved ask the Lord to grant you the grace to grieve with those who are grieving. But don’t simply sulk in your grief.
Pray for those in need! We must pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti – both the nationals and those missionaries who love the Haitians. Along with the church in Haiti, there are both short-term and long-term missionaries presently on the island.
Give! There are multiple opportunities to partner with ministries presently involved in the relief work in Haiti. Desiring God has a list of 11 charities collecting donations for Haiti. One of the ministries which Desiring God International Outreach is highlighting is Food for the Hungry and their response in Haiti. Providing food is not all FH is doing:
Food for the Hungry is working with our partners on the ground, providing the following to survivors:
* Water filtration systems
* Water purification tablets
* Kitchen kits and cooking supplies
* Flash lights, blankets & medical supplies
* Hygiene kits
* Temporary shelter tarps and plastic
You can partner immediately with FH now here.
Go! I don’t have much information about teams going presently. I know personally that there were teams on the ground when the quake hit. Food for the Hungry is planning a trip to Haiti in June. Perhaps they will do something sooner as a result of the quake, but here is some information about their June trip.
UPDATE: The Gospel Coalition has posted a list of agencies involved in the Haiti relief effort that have been recommended by council members.
Thanks to my brother and friend Anil Levi, I just got wind that Roger Ebert agrees with me on Avatar. This is Roger Ebert’s version of James Cameron’s script for Avatar. Click on it for a readable version-hilarious!