Saturday, June 30, 2012

Identity Theft

Since we are learning to sniff out idolatry, you really ought to read Kevin Bauder's recent essay "Identity and Idolatry."

When people reject God, however, these secondary factors are used to form their primary identity. Things that are merely derivative are treated as if they are ultimate. We seek to know who we are in relationship to created things.

By themselves, however, those things are utterly incapable of telling us who we are. They cannot support our identity. The more we rely upon them, the more hollow we find them to be. We cannot really live as if we are simply our country, our family, our job, or any combination of such finite elements. We cannot live as if such things were ultimate. The attempt to do so leads us ineluctably into frustration, contradiction, and despair. Our existence becomes inauthentic.

He concludes,

If we wander from the God in whose image we are made, then the first thing that we lose is ourselves.

Read the whole essay here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Extricating without Evacuating

If we are to glorify God and give out the good news of Jesus Christ, we must extricate ourselves from the idolatry of this world without evacuating the premises. The Scripture teaches us how to do this. Join us this Lord's Day to begin the training.

And Can It Be? (#335)
Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (#211)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)
Not I, but Christ (#537)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 36:1-19; Psalm 115
New Testament: Hebrews 10:11-18

Separating the Light from the Darkness: the First Step toward Disentangling Ourselves from Idolatry - 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fire and Worship

The news has been engulfed by one hot topic - fire. Not surprisingly, our family devotional time last night lit on the same topic. I asked my children and our friend Connor to think of all the times fire is mentioned in the Bible and what is associated with fire. In rapid-fire succession they came up with a huge list of instances. It's not difficult to come up with many instances of judgment, sacrifice, and purification. I think the greatest impact that watching this Waldo Canyon fire has made upon me is how awesome (in all the right senses of that word) God is.

As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Dan 7:9-10)

I don't know how anyone can watch this fire without being driven to their knees in humble worship.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Idols? What Idols?

The worship of the true God versus the worship of idols is a fundamental biblical category for making sense of our lives, and even for distinguishing the people of God from the heathen. Yet today our noses have not been trained to detect the scent of an idol. If we were to set off on an idol hunt, we would run hither and yon until we ended up in Asia somewhere. But we have plenty of idolatry right here in America, and our objective this Lord's Day is to learn its smell.

Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
I Sing the Mighty Power of God (#19)
Psalm 8a
O for a Closer Walk with God (#472)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 35; Psalm 11
New Testament: Hebrews 10:1-10

The Idols Right under Our Noses - Introduction to 1 Corinthians 8-10

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Disintegration On a Pedestal

Idols are wind, nothing, hebel. They are the desecration, disordering, and destruction of God's good world. When men worship idols, they too become desecrated, disordered, and ultimately they are destroyed. This derangement penetrates all levels of our being, including our affections. Roger Scruton insightfully picks up on our disordered imagination and affection as he discusses idolatry. While I would want to tweak a few things he says, his primary insights are invaluable. Meditate on what he says.

The emotional disorder involved in [idolatry] has been beautifully conveyed by Poussin, in his painting of the Golden Calf. The foreground is dominated by the calf, raised on its pedestal. The idol is a glowing surrogate, life-like but dead, with the emphatic deadness of metal. Aaron gestures with priestly pride to his creation, while the people, drunk, helpless and in the grip of collective delusion, dance like brainless animals around this thing less sacred than themselves. In focusing on the calf their emotions are also out of focus - bewildered, diseased, gyrating in a void. In the distance, barely visible, is the figure of Moses, descending from Mount Sinai with the tables of the law, the abstract decrees of an abstract God, who can be understood through no earthly image but only through law. Moses casts the stone tablets to the ground, destroying thereby not the law but its earthly record. The contrast here is between the active work of imagination, which points to a God beyond the sensory world, and the passive force of fantasy,which creates its own god out of sensory desires. Every idol is also a sacrilege, since it causes us to focus the worship that is due to higher things on something lower than ourselves. Only by responding to what is higher than the human, do we become truly human.

Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture, 60

P.S. Scruton's last sentence reflects a vital biblical truth, which has often been stated this way - "You become like what you worship." We will only image God rightly when we worship God rightly. The first Adam failed miserably, turning us all into idolaters. But the second Adam triumphed and brings us to God.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

We Are All Worshipers

Of all the misleading interpretations of this complex age, few are more so than the common one that secularism means the replacements of a world view that is religious with one that is not. This completely mistakes the meaning of religion....The religious character of human ideas and institutions is all-pervasive, even in nontheistic systems like Buddhism, communism, and humanism....One of Jacques Ellul's most important contributions has been to show that modern Western society is awash with religiosity, that the much-vaunted secularization process means the flourishing of anti-Christian religions.

Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 273

Friday, June 15, 2012

Now Concerning Food Offered to Idols...

This Lord's Day we will begin a new series of sermons from 1 Corinthians 8-10 dealing with glorifying God for the advance of the gospel in a land of many gods. I have argued before that our nation has become fundamentally pagan, and it is clear biblically that we as Christians are to keep ourselves from idols. So how do we do that? How do we live in such a way that brings honor to the one true God, our Lord Jesus Christ, while advancing the gospel, without getting enmeshed in idolatry? Join us this Lord's Day so we can work together to do all for the glory of God.

Come, Thou Almighty King (#63)
Behold the Glories of the Lamb (#653)
Crown Him with Many Crowns (#53)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice! (#291)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 35:29-35; Psalm 115
New Testament: Hebrews 9:15-28

Food Offered to Idols - 1 Corinthians 8

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Together at Christ's Table

With all the talk about "culture wars" and how Christians ought to live in these days, there is one simple symbol that is often overlooked. Far more potent than the ballot box, and far more foundational than the arts, the Lord's Supper is the central symbolic rite of participation in Christ. As we blaze a trail forward as a church, seeking new paths of faithfulness, the Lord's Supper helps us to keep our heads screwed on straight and our hearts in tune with Christ's calling to love one another. Join us this Lord's Day to be together at Christ's table.

The Living Stone (#225)
By Christ Redeemed, in Christ Restored (#233)
How Sweet and Awful Is the Place (#238)
Amazing Grace (#247)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 34:10-28; Psalm 65
New Testament: Hebrews 9:1-14

Together at Christ's Table - 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Friday, June 01, 2012

True Witness to the Truth

It is here - the last sermon in our series through the Gospel of John. We have seen God's glory revealed in Jesus, the Word made flesh, and we have seen that it is indeed full of grace and truth. We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and we have life in his name. What greater privilege could we have but to yield our lives to him in total love and service?

In order to solidify our confidence in Jesus, John's Gospel closes by tightening the final bolts in the structure of his magnificent, eye-witness testimony. It is the truth which tells us of the Truth. Join us this Lord's Day to rejoice in it.

Come, Christians, Join to Sing (#67)
Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim (#44)
O for a Heart to Praise My God (#70)
Holy Savior, We Adore Thee (#73)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 34:1-9; Psalm 25
New Testament: Hebrews 8

True Witness to the Truth - John 21:20-25