“God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.” — A.W. TozerPosted: 08.09.2012
And I forgive
Grace fully accepts the injury, and forgives. Grace is not cheap. It does not shrug off the offense as mere common occurrence or one being too hard on himself.
We cannot fight or have victory over sin (and death), unless God forgives us.
We have injured Christ in word, attitude, and action; our wicked wrath hung him on the cross; God’s righteous wrath, there, killed him for our sake.
All our shame is laid upon Christ and our Father says, “I know. And I forgive you.”
“But I feel like an idiot,” we say. “I’ve injured others so deeply. I drag your name through the mud. I screw up all the time.”
Yet again, he says, “I know.
And I forgive you.”
At a great cost to himself – through the shed blood of his son – our Father forgives.
For the past few months, my Bible study and I have been reading Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods. The book deals with idolatry, as the subtitle summarizes The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. It has been very challenging, as no one likes to be confronted with the reality of their sinful desires, and it has been encouraging, being reminded that we are more sinful than we can imagine, yet more loved than we dare to dream.
This week we’re finishing out the book, so I thought I’d share some thoughts from the Epilogue. I realize I’m skipping 164 pages of the book, but I think this post will summarize the main theme and purpose of the book – what I call the “idol remedy.”
The way to get rid of an idol, Keller says, is by replacing it. He says, “If you uproot the idol and fail to ‘plant’ the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.” This process of replacing an idol comes in two parts: repentance and worship.
“Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol…When we repent out of fear of consequences, we are not really sorry for the sin, but for ourselves. Fear-based repentance is…self-pity. In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose its attractive power…fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves.” p.172
“[Idolatry] cannot be remedied only by repenting that you have an idol, or using willpower to try to live differently.” p. 171
“…it is worship that is the final way to replace the idols of your heart. You cannot get relief simply by figuring out your idols intellectually. You have to actually get the peace that Jesus gives, and that only comes as you worship. Analysis can help you discover truths, but then you need to ‘pray them in’ to your heart.” p. 175
In the end it is paramount to remember that God is pleased with us because of Christ’s works, not ours. Operating outside of this truth, to try earn His favor or develop a sense of self-worth, is idolatry and self-focused. Keller quotes Martin Luther in a footnote from this chapter, saying,
“If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious to us and is pleased with us, or if w we presumptuously expect to please Him only through and after our works, then it is all pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false (savior).”
For more from Tim Keller, I invite you to check out his website: here.
What about you? Do you find yourself trying to keep a clean moral record so that God will love you? Is it difficult to believe that God is gracious and pleased with you, not because of your record but because of Jesus’? Idolatry can look like this and so much more, but these are two areas that idolatry plays out in my life. I’d love to hear your thoughts this topic and how Keller’s words inspire and/or challenge you!
Never forget that the world is not on auto-pilot; the water cycle does not happen on auto-pilot; air is not replenished on auto-pilot; babies are not conceived and born on auto-pilot; seeds do not fall and plants and trees born on auto-pilot; the sun does not rise on auto-pilot*; the systems we think are dependable and inevitable are really neither; we must never forget this. We must also be careful.
Let’s start at the beginning: there is one God, and many gods. God created all things. He did not then remove Himself from all things. He is not the clockmaker that wound up the world and let her go; and this makes all the difference.
In other words, He is the Creator and Maintainer of all things; He holds all things together; He sends the water from the ocean to the sky, the sky to the land, the land to the ocean, and back again; He covers the atmosphere with enough oxygen to keep almost 7 billion people breathing; He takes the sperm and plants it into fertile egg, develops the child, and commands the developed lungs to respond upon birth; He carries the seeds from their source to the appropriate soil, draws their roots into the earth, and cultivates new plants and trees; He keeps our planet in orbit and rotation, to show us the sun each day; this is not ordinary, this is supernatural.
He is holding all things together not merely because He can but because He is mercifully giving us new opportunity to draw close to Him. This perspective is what reminds us that the ordinary is not so ordinary, and that His great mercy sustains us. May we not forget this; may we be ever thankful; may we draw near to Him.
* “A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again,” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again,” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. ” – G.K. Chesterton
Please take the 35 minutes to listen to this interview between NPR and John Piper, recorded shortly after the tsunami in Indonesia in 2004. It moved me to tears several times, hearing how majestic our God is. How just and merciful, powerful and patient, holy and good He is. This is for skeptics and Christians alike:
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the interview. Did you like what Piper has to say? Did it comfort you? Was there anything left unsaid? Comment below!
For the last month and half, I’ve been working part-time for Verge Network. Verge is a network of networks. That’s right, we network with other networks of leading evangelical leaders, authors, thinkers, practitioners, etc. on a wide range of topics, namely, missional community.
Verge also hosts an annual conference. The purpose of the conference is the same as the online presence – to expose people to the call of the church to live on mission. This year Verge is partnering with another conference called “Exponential”. Find out more about it here.
My role in all of this has been to manage the site content. In other words, I connect with these leaders to collaborate on new material for our website. We (Verge) provide the topic, they (the leaders) provide the material. We then use our national platform – both the website and the conferences – to publish these resources.
So far, it’s been very fast-paced but I’ve really enjoyed my team and the nature of the work. Best of all, I’m being challenged in my love for the Gospel, for God, and for others. This new opportunity has been a huge blessing.
I’ve also been very convicted lately, in the midst of the busyness of juggling three jobs, weekly bible studies and discipleship, attempting a social life, being a husband, and preparing to be a father, that I often default to operating on my own strength. This is a very dangerous default.
In the I-guess-I’ll-try-to-take-this-on-all-by-myself mode, I begin to see people as tasks, looking through them and not listening, worried, if not upset, that these few moments are getting in the way of all that I need to get done. Stressed that I will let myself and others down. Neglecting time in the Word, in order to get my tasks done, hardly stopping to ask God for the strength to do any of this.
My worth and your worth is not found in what we can get done. The number of tasks that I’ve accomplished don’t impress God. Even my “good” days are often offensive to God because my motives are so misplaced (Isa. 64:6; 58). What impresses God the Father is His son, Jesus. God’s after my heart and if my heart has nothing to do with loving Jesus, then God is probably not pleased by it…and I’m foolishly working for the approval of men (Gal. 1:10).
The good news remains that Christ has purchased my soul with His blood and my life is hidden with Him in God (Col. 3:3). This love and costly grace gives incredible significance to my life and should be the inspiration for all that I do.
Now, I can work hard and love much because Christ has loved much and purchased all the approval and comfort and control and whatever else it might be that I would seek on my own. Once again, the bible frees and motivates.
What about you? What are some things that distract you or keep you from time with God or time with family? When do you find comfort or a sense of accomplishment?
Sometimes we identify things by what they are not. And this is helpful…to a point. The “C” note of an instrument is certainly not a “D” or an “E” or so on…but it is something – it is a “C.” The identity of “C” may even have various iterations – it can be played on a deep and booming upright bass or it can call from a piercing trumpet blast, and many timbres in between. So, while its identity may be dressed up in many, varying ways, and its identity may be better understood when couched in contrast to the separate notes around it, the note must have its own, distinct identity.
The God of the Bible is not a tree. He is not the universe. I am not the God of the Bible. While this may help us understand who and what God is not, these contrasts do not do justice in describing who he actually is. I will echo A.W. Tozer in saying that, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”, and what we believe about this identity will shape what we believe about all other identities.
Because I am a skeptic at heart, and have overly-analytical tendencies, identity has been a struggle for me as of late…here’s why. I know that God is immutable, yet all else is ever-changing. So, while my faith is anchored in the One who does not change, my struggle comes in knowing how to appropriate my faith in different, changing contexts. If the things that seem routine and dependable are actually different every day – including sunrises! – how can we confidently claim an identity that wont change tomorrow?
God is sovereign and through his providence he has “wired” everyone a certain way, be it chemically, genetically, through nurture and experiences, or whatever. That being said, do we choose our identity or does it choose us? In other words, do we recognize our identity or do we define it?
I would humbly argue both. Our decisions shape our circumstances and our circumstances shape who we are, but God ordains all of it (Prov. 16:9). While I wouldn’t subscribe to the “you-can-do-anything-you-put-your-mind-to” wisdom of Dr. Emmett Brown, I do think we have much to say about who we become…God just has more say. And according to Scripture, my identity is a missionary (Matt. 28:18-20), so this should have much to say about how I make my decisions. So, going back to my struggle with identity, I have a hard time determining how to live out this missionary identity in everyday contexts.
With absolutely no authority, I’ll take a guess at how to answer this problem. These are six suggestions for how to discover how to appropriate your identity:
- Pray – pray that God would give you wisdom and joy as you pursue your passions and make decisions.
- Live in Community – share your life with others and it will bring more out of them and they will bring more out of you (see C.S. Lewis quote on friendship).
- Seek your spiritual gifts – Matt Carter offered some wisdom a while back on how to seek spiritual gifts, saying to, “serve broadly and serve often”.
- Be patient – in a world that is always changing, we shouldn’t expect a formulaic life, producing results when we want them
- Be in the Word – going back to Tozer’s quote, what we think about God is of utmost importance, and what we know from his revelation will determine how we think about him and how we think about all things
- Obey – live a life of obedience, regardless of the context, and God will guide you.
Ultimately, identity is not just about the individual, it is also about a) the One who assigns the identity and b) our relation to those around us. A “C” note may still be a “C” if there were no other notes, but God designed it so that not only is there this distinct “C”, but there are many other distinct notes to interact with. While our identity may be discovered and created in unique ways, it is never done in isolation.