Categories
Life

Jesus, the Greater Satisfaction

Last week, I wrote two posts (1, 2) with questions to ask when you read the Bible. Today, I want us to think about how to identify the false gods we worship and seek Christ as a greater affection as it relates to Bible reading.

In any particular situation, we sin because we do not truly believe the gospel. There is some part of us that is still not fully redeemed and we therefore put our hope in things other than God. We have, in the words of the First Commandment, other gods before us. The Bible calls these other gods “idols.” Therefore, when we are asking questions to aid our meditation and prayer, we need to understand how to find the “sin beneath the sin.”

Think about this example. If I am told to not be harsh with my children (Eph. 6:4) the problem is not simply that I might yell at my kids from time to time. Yelling is a symptom of the harshness that lives in my heart. But what is the cause, the root issue? Where is the anger coming from? There is an idol (i.e. false god, a greater affection than Christ) that I am looking to for salvation. It may be that I think I deserve the right to a quiet night (comfort idol). It may be that I feel that their misbehavior makes me look or feel inadequate (reputation or approval idol). It may the that I feel they shame the family when they act a certain way (family idol). The external behavior of our sin is never the main problem. It’s always the heart. I don’t just get angry for anger’s sake. I get angry because I am worshiping a false god. 

When reading any passage, you must find out what the passage exposes in your attitude, behavior, and emotions, and then uncover what idol lies beneath it. Thinking about it this way might help (thank you, Tim Keller):

  • Power idol.“I only have worth/meaning when I am in control of ______.”
  • Approval idol. “I only have worth/meaning when ______ approves of me.”
  • Comfort idol. “I only have worth/meaning when things works out to my liking.”
  • Family idol. “I only have worth/meaning when my family is functioning well or if they are happy with me.”
  • Dependence idol. “I only have worth/meaning when ______ keeps me safe.”
  • Achievement idol. “I only have worth/meaning if I can achieve ______.”
  • Helping idol. “I only have worth/meaning if others need me to help them.”
  • Political idol. “I only have worth/meaning if my ideals/candidates/issues makes progress.”
  • Reputation idol. “I only have worth/meaning if I succeed at ______.”
  • Theological idol. “I only have worth/meaning if others embrace my beliefs/convictions.”
  • Money idol. “I only have meaning if I have a certain amount of money in the bank.”
  • _____ idol. The human heart is an idol factory, said John Calvin. Fill in the blank.

Ultimately, we have idols because they are more attractive to us than Jesus. When we fail to be compliant with Scripture, it’s not that we experience a cognitive dilemma. The problem is not that we fail to remember what God told us to do. It’s that we love something more than Jesus in the moment. Here are several questions we can ask after we have identified idols to move toward repentance and faith and love for Jesus:

  • What is more attractive to me about ______ than Jesus?
  • What things (i.e. triggers) propel me toward looking to _______ instead of Jesus?
  • How does Jesus meet my need in a way ______ cannot?
  • Why should Jesus be a superior satisfaction?
  • What specifics in the passage—or in other passages—bring me to worship Jesus for who he is and what he’s done?
  • What specifics in the passage give me the grace I need to fight this idol and walk in obedience?

How would you phrase these questions? What ones would you add that have been helpful to you? Be sure to check back in a couple days for one last post on questions to ask when reading the Bible. 

Categories
Life Theology

Exchanging God’s Glory for Created Things

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:22-23)

Paul describes in verse 23 what this looks like.  The result of believing yourself to be wise in your own right is exchanging the glory of God for the glory of some lesser thing—that is, something created.  Here, we see the first dark exchange that man has made for worship of his Creator.  Paul writes, “And [they] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”  People have exchanged the worship of God for idols.  Futility of mind and foolishness ultimately leads to idolatry.   Every person was created for worship.  People either worship God as Creator, Author, and Sustainer of life, or something that is created and, by definition, finite, dependent, and frail.  Paul said that people have exchanged the glory of God for images.  What kind of images?  He points to man, birds, animals, and reptiles.  In essence, every created animate object on earth.

Paul does not have in mind the Israelites of the OT or pagan Gentiles, but rather the entirety of mankind (Moo, Epistle to the Romans, p. 110).  It is natural for people to worship and in our foolishness and unrighteousness, we suppress God’s truth and worship we can see and touch.  So this passage applies to the one who worships sex, money, fame, food, friends, or technology just as much as it does to the one who makes a statue out of gold or stone.

The question we must ask ourselves is: “What am I exchanging for the glory of the immortal God?”  In other words, what is it that we want to glorify and exalt and take true satisfaction in?  Tim Keller has said that nearly every idol is a “good thing.”  Think about the things that we worship.  None of them are inherently bad—money, sex, food, spouse, children, work, friends, computers, communication, etc.  However, when a good thing becomes an ultimate thing, Keller says, that thing becomes a god thing, an idol.  We must get to the root of our desires and discern what those things are that we consider ultimate things.

Keller said one way of identifying those things would be to pose this statement to yourself: “If I lost _______, I would want to die.”  If we examine our lives closely, we can ask ourselves, what takes up our time, energy, and resources.  Is it the one who is “blessed forever,” the one who is “immortal, invisible, the only God” who has “honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17)?  Or is it something that is finite, dependent, and frail?  And if this other “god” were to die, would it rise from the dead like Jesus did?  The answer is a resounding no.

 

Categories
Life

Woe to the Idolater

In Luke 6:24-26, Jesus condemns people in general — and the Pharisees in particular — with four specific woes.  Here’s what he says:

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Jesus is not condemning being rich, having a healthy plate for dinner, enjoying a good joke, or being commended by friends.  Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not a fun-sucker.

Instead, Jesus is condemning those who put their hope in those things. People who hope in riches usually don’t cheerfully donate to the homeless. People who hope in food don’t normally volunteer time at the food bank. People who get their kicks from insulting others aren’t selfless humanitarians. And people who love the praise don’t love to give credit to others when its their due.

Riches, food, humor, praise, and a thousand other things are all good. But when good things become ultimate things, they become idols. And idols will kill you.

Categories
Theology

Sermon 8: Sin Darkened Hearts

Sin Darkened Hearts
Series: Redemption
Pastor Steve Moltumyr

Romans 1:18-32

  • God reveals righteousness and wrath.  Both of them reveal who God is.
  • The wrath of God is a permanent, consistent attribute of God that is a holy response to everything that is unholy.

Why do we deserve God’s wrath?

  • We suppress the truth about God.
    • We don’t lack information about God, we deliberately reject what is uncomfortable for us to hear.
    • The universe is God’s signpost that points us to his power and nature.
    • At the most basic level, we suppress truth because we don’t like it.
  • We refuse to glorify and thank God.
    • We are not courteous to God.  This cosmic ingratitude causes us to live in the illusion of self-sufficiency.
    • Our refusal to acknowledge God is at the root of all our sin.  In essence, we want to be our own god.
  • We create idols to replace God.
    • Idols do not have to be primitive statues of wood or stone.
    • If you rest your security in anything other than God, you are putting your hope in an idol.  You are an idolater.
    • The end result of consistent, unrepentant idolatry is that God gives us what we want.

The Solution

  • As we look at this vice list, it should be like looking in a mirror.
  • We must look to Jesus, the only one who never committed one of these sins listed.  Even though he was innocent, he took on our sin and God’s wrath so that we might be forgiven and become his righteousness.
Categories
Life

Jesus’ Resurrection Has Implications for Your Life

A few decades ago, a lot of scholarly research was dedicated to finding the answer to the question, “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?”  Now, it seems as if everyone in this postmodern, relative society is not asking, “Did he?” but rather, “So what?”

Let’s answer this practically: If a man died from a brutal execution — so much so that his body and face were hardly recognizable as human — and then rose from the dead with a healed and restored body, then this man must be more than just a man.  “So what?” you ask.  Well, if he is more than a man, then he must be loved, honored, and obeyed for who he is, namely God himself.

What do you love, honor, and obey?  Money?  Sex?  Relationships?  Food?  Praise of man?  Hollywood?  Sports?  Status?  Technology?  Cars?  Children?  Body image?  Knowledge?  Religion?  Yourself?

If these things died, would they rise from the dead like Jesus did?

I doubt it.