Thursday, February 10, 2011

True Worship or Just Smashing Idols?

I've been dipping into Herbert Schlossberg's book Idols for Destruction lately, and it prompted these thoughts.

It seems that much of professing Christianity these days is constitutionally incapable of recognizing idolatry, even when it is shaking our hands and introducing itself. Those of us of a conservative bent, like myself, can tend to get very frustrated about this and, in full prophetic mode, thunder against those sniveling, sentimental "Christians" who think they can love Jesus "in their hearts" while bowing down in the idol's temple. Such judgment is necessary, but it seems to me that we face a particular temptation just at this point.

Smashing an idol is not necessarily the same thing as true worship. In fact, it can be an example of one idolatry smashing and replacing a different idolatry. A mob of peasants running around demolishing idolatrous church statuary is not overcoming evil with good. When I get sick over the idolatry oozing out of the Super Bowl, I am not thereby proving myself to be God-fearing man. I may, in fact, be a very self-righteous man, which is just as grotesque an idol as man ever devised.

I think one way we show whether we are merely idol-smashers or true worshipers is by being able to receive and gratefully rejoice in God's good gifts. The only thing an idol-smasher can see is idols. Everywhere he looks he is provoked with righteous indignation, and the hammer begins to swing. But being devoid of gratitude, he fails to see that the things that have been turned into idols are actually the gifts of God. Men have perverted them, no doubt, but men didn't create them out of nothing. When an idol-smasher has done his work, he has not destroyed idolatry. Rather, he has destroyed humanity with a terrifying idolatry.

The answer is not to destroy humanity but to reverse the worship. In order to deal with sin, God did not destroy mankind. He became a man and took on himself the penalty for sin. Idolatry is worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. True worship is worshiping the Creator and not the creature. And a necessary ingredient in that worship is gratefully receiving all of the good gifts that the Creator lavishly bestows on his poor creatures.

So, when the Super Bowl makes me want to puke because it embodies all the carnal desires of a sin-sick world, I have to ask myself if I can enjoy getting out a playing a good ol' game of hard-nosed football. Can I unreservedly rejoice in my friend's son's good season last fall, or do I have to make sure he knows that he is tiptoeing down the sideline toward the end-zone of idolatry? If it is the latter, then it is likely that I am losing the sense of gratitude that fills the heart of a true worshiper.

It is no accident that our resurrection life in Christ has so much to do with thanksgiving (Col 3:1-4; 15-17) or that grace is so closely related to gratitude. I want to show the world true worship, which, while it will include fearlessly removing the high places and cutting down the Asherah, will be filled with a joyful and humble delight in all of the Lord's good gifts.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jason, Very thought-provoking. This may be obvious, but my first reaction was to wonder about the differences between "smashing idols" mentality and a "find out what's wrong with other churches/denomination and condemn" mentality. I see that the latter can be good with appropriate motives to advance truth as can the former. What are your thoughts on the parallels/differences? -chad

Jason Parker said...

Hi Chad,
Thanks for the good, clarifying question. My primary target in this post was my own attitudes and motives. I didn't address the question of when, why, and how to go about dealing with truth vs. error.

Should idols be smashed? Absolutely. Grind 'em into powder! Should we meticulously define and boldly defend the truth and expose error, even within churches? Without a doubt we ought to do so, even when we are seen as the bad guys for doing it.

However, on a personal level, it is perilously easy to lose our love for God and others when engaged in this necessary warfare. The devil is a master strategist, and he likes to use a good thing to tempt us into a soul-destroying blunder. I want to guard myself against this deceit by a constant focus on the grace of God and by a continual gratitude for all he is doing.

Todd Mitchell said...

Well said, Jason.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jason. I definitely relate to you in this regard and appreciate the reminder for my own life. It is so tempting to get lost in these battles and forget love for God. For myself, I have to make sure that I am fighting these battles for His glory and not just for being right. I can get like the Pharisee in Luke 18 and not recognize my own sin and need for Christ. I pray for God's grace here. Thanks again for writing and we miss you and your family. Chad