Yes, idolatry continues to plague even believers. We discussed this at our small group this past Sunday night and I thought I’d pass on this helpful description by Tim Keller. Ask God for grace to see the idols that may exist in your heart. Fight the good fight of the faith by killing these.
…or, why thou shalt not love other pastors or teachers at the expense of your own…
Good counsel and words here from one Mark Driscoll on the particular perils of what he calls a “conference Christian.” The conclusion:
As I see it, conference Christians really only have one of three options. One, they can repent of attending too many conferences and pour themselves out as servants in a local church rather than consumers at yet another conference. Two, they can continue to attend conferences but mainly for the purpose of growing as a humble servant-leader with new passions and ideas to implement in their local church. Three, they can now start discussing why they disagree with this critique, which will give them something to do until conference season kicks up again in the fall.
Read the whole thing.
Stephen Altrogge had a great post over at Crossway entitled When the Gospel Transforms Your Christmas Expectations. Here’s how he began to engage:
I have certain expectations when it comes to Christmas. I expect to drink egg nog, even though I don’t really like it. I expect to listen to hours upon hours of Christmas carols. I expect to watch the movie Elf. I expect to drive around with my family and look at Christmas lights. And I expect to get some gifts. Twenty-eight years of Christmas experience has taught me what to expect.
But how would I feel if some of my expectations weren’t met? What if I didn’t get to do the things that I so look forward to? No Elf. No Christmas lights. No nog. No gifts. Could I be happy? Could I be content? Could I rejoice in what I have instead of what I don’t have?
He then goes on to show all that we have received in the Gospel: namely, Forgiveness, Fellowship with God, Freedom. How about you? if all the “stuff” of Christmas was tossed, would you still have joy? Great question. Allow this article to shape you.
In Colossians 3 Paul tells those believers who are united to Christ to seek the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. In Colossians 3:5-6, consistent with this seeking is a call to put to death, among others things “covetousness, which is idolatry.” You might not think that idolatry is something that believers struggle with, but even John, when writing 1 John to give assurance to believers, closes with an appeal “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
Related to this was a post on the DG Blog, 13 Questions to Diagnose Your Idolatries. Here’s the questions they give:
1. What do you most highly value?
2. What do you think about by default?
3. What is your highest goal?
4. To what or whom are you most committed?
5. Who or what do you love the most?
6. Who or what do you trust or depend upon the most?
7. Who or what do you fear the most?
8. Who or what do you hope in and hope for most?
9. Who or what do you desire the most? Or, what desire makes you most angry or makes you despair when it is not satisfied?
10. Who or what do you most delight in or hold as your greatest joy and treasure?
11. Who or what captures your greatest zeal?
12. To whom or for what are you most thankful?
13. For whom or what great purpose do you work?
Use these to evaluate your heart and flee idolatry.
From our church’s current newsletter, an article I wrote:
As a church we place God’s Word at the center of all that we are. We exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and we know how to do this by what God has revealed to us in His Word. During our Sunday morning worship gatherings, we have been looking at the book of Colossians which is rich in telling us much about Jesus Christ and our relationship to Him. We are looking at that section in chapter 3 about putting off certain things and putting on others. In Colossians 3:5, we read: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” For the past few weeks, we have been memorizing the Ten Commandments and the last one is “you shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17). But Paul ups the ante a bit and tells us that covetousness is really idolatry.
Many of us don’t think we struggle with idolatry. We picture some Old Testament buffoon bowing down at some golden calf or other image. But, Paul says that the problem of idolatry isn’t so much about the outward stuff as much as the inward desires and cravings or, to put it like he did, what we covet. In his recent book, Gospel in Life, Tim Keller writes: “Why do we lie, or fail to love, or break our promises, or live selfishly? Of course, the general answer is “Because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer is that there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy, something that is more important to our heart that God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires. The key to change (and even to self-understanding) is therefore to identify the idols of the heart.”
He continues: “We often don’t go deeply enough to analyze our idol-structures. For example, ‘money’ is of course an idol; yet, in another sense, money can be sought to satisfy other very different idols. That is, some people want money in order to control their world and life (such people usually don’t spend their money, but save it), while others want money for access to social circles and for making themselves beautiful and attractive (such people do spend their money on themselves).” Richard Keyes in his essay The Idol Factory notes, “All sorts of things are potential idols… if this is so, how do we determine when something is becoming or has become an idol?… As soon as our loyalty to anything leads us to disobey God, we are in danger of making it an idol… An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero…
• Work, a commandment of God, can become an idol if it is pursued so exclusively that responsibilities to one’s family are ignored.
• Family, an institution of God Himself, can become an idol if one is so preoccupied with the family that no one outside of one’s own family is cared for.
• Being well-liked, a perfectly legitimate hope, becomes an idol if the attachment to it means that one never risks disapproval.”
To help identify idols in our lives, on top of the above info, Keller gives the following questions: 1) What is my greatest nightmare? What do I worry about the most? 2) What do I rely on or comfort myself with when things go badly or become difficult? 3) What makes me feel the most self-worth? What am I the proudest of? 4) What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?
There are various ways to deal with idols, but the Gospel solution is the only one that will produce lasting change. Simply repent and rejoice. Repent or turn from that idol and rejoice or delight in the all satisfying-ness of Jesus. In The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, Thomas Chalmers writes, “The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one… It is when admitted into the number of God’s children, through the faith that is in Jesus Christ, that the spirit of adoption is poured upon us—it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great and predominant affection, is delivered from the tyranny of its former desires, and is the only way in which deliverance is possible.” Let’s escape covetousness, which is idolatry, then, by clinging to the greatest of all possible good – Jesus Christ our Lord. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:20-21).