Saturday, June 23, 2012

Subtle Idolatry

"Wanting forgiveness of sins is idolatry if we don't want it as a means to enjoying God." - John Piper

“Every one of us is, even from his mother's womb, a master craftsman of idols.” – John Calvin

"Unless it is Him, that which we long for more than anything else will not satisfy. It will only enslave and disappoint." - Eric Geiger

"It is possible to avoid Jesus as Savior as much by keeping all the biblical rules as by breaking them." - Tim Keller

I wrote on deeper idols about a year ago and it is worth revisiting before reading this post:

So, I mentioned in my most recent post (Idolatry Part 2) that God is continuing to show me the idols in my life.  Some have been easier to see than others.  As the Spirit reveals and convicts me on my more obvious idols, introspection continues into what is yet deeper and ultimately at the root of all my idolatry.

I mean...if you are Christian, does it not simply boggle your mind that, regardless of your age or the amount of time you have called Jesus your Savior, you continue to choose things over Him?  You continue to place your trust in yourself instead of Him?  You continue to doubt that what He has planned for you is better than your own ideas?

It does boggle my mind.  It gnaws at me.  What is it that I am not believing?  Why am I not fully trusting?  Do I not truly grasp Jesus' death and resurrection?  Do I not comprehend that every breath I take and every involuntary beat of my heart is a constant reminder of mercy and grace?  Or is it that I am not fully satisfied with the way my life has gone or what happened yesterday or a disappointing experience just moments ago?  Am I still clinging to my ideals rather than what God has made real?

From John Eldredge's "Beautiful Outlaw" (page 79)...

Late into the night, early in the morning, walking down the road, in the middle of his supper, at home, abroad, Jesus offers.  His time, his words, his touch, flowing like the wine at Cana.  To appreciate the reality of it all, remember, this is not Superman.  Remember his loneliness, his weariness, his humanity.  This is utterly remarkable - particularly in light of the fact that this is a man on a life-or-death mission.  He is lavish with himself.

And that's the key, right there - that giving of himself.  That is what is so precious.  Moses offered leadership, and tirelessly.  Solomon handed out the rarest of wisdom free of charge.  Pilate seemed willing to toss to the crowds anyone they wanted.  But Jesus gives himself.  That is, after all, what he came to give, and what we most desperately need.

What do we most desperately need?  Jesus.  That's it.  Yes, we need other things - provision, love, purpose, rest.  But they all start and end with Jesus.  Any of those things separated from the One who made us will offer no fulfillment, no peace, no hope.

Oh, but we have become adept at pretending that they can offer what we need.  We can pretend to the point of addiction (that blog is coming next).  But why do we pretend when deep down we know that only God can truly satisfy?  I can only believe that it is pride...that desire to elevate ourselves above our Creator that ushered sin into the world and haunts us to this day.  My desire to be the center of the story is unrelenting.

As I walked down the street to Whole Foods a few weeks ago, I found myself having an inner dialogue that is unfortunately not terribly uncommon.  "Why have things gone the way they have?  Why do I find myself single and struggling at 39 when life was all laid out for me to be successful on every level?"  And then the Spirit intervenes and says, "You have God."  You see, my sense of entitlement shows how quickly, how easily, my heart can replace God with myself.  If you want to know whether or not you have made yourself the center of the story, just pay attention to how you react when someone treats you in a way that you don't think you deserve or when you feel taken for granted or when you aren't patted on the back for a job well done or when a driver cuts you off in heavy traffic.  Even worse, what is your stance toward God when life doesn't go the way you want?

My first reaction, all too often, is to lash out because being the center of the story means that everyone and everything else, including God, exists to serve me.  And when they aren't serving me, there is a big problem.

The idea that we exist to be served by others is not usually something of which we are truly aware.  It is embedded deep down and has become such an integral part of the way we live and think that it is extremely difficult to isolate and decipher.  The more I think about it, the more this is key to everything.  We will always be miserable if our sense of entitlement continually puts demands on everyone around us that they were never meant to carry.  We will always be disappointed if we put expectations of joy and fulfillment on our idols as they were never meant to bear that weight.  The creation was made to point to the Creator but our greatest temptation is to stop our worship at the creation because to go one step further is to admit that it is not about us.

I have said it to many people.  The idea that "it is not about us" is the most difficult lesson for any human being to earn.  But once you see that there is greater joy from giving up yourself for the sake of God and others, your eyes begin opening up to the purpose for which we were created.  All of the angst, frustration and despair we encounter in defending our "rights" starts to melt away.  It is replaced with peace, gratitude and joy.

"Christianity is voluntary crucifixion." - Darrin Patrick

"There is nothing that makes you more miserable (or less interesting) than self-absorption." - Tim Keller

Why are you strivin these days?
Why are you tryin to earn grace?
Why are you cryin?  Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away

Why are you lookin for love?
Why are you still searchin as if I'm not enough?
To where will you go child?
Tell me where you will you run?
To where will you run?

Cause I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
So please don't fight
These hands that are holdin you
My hands are holdin you