Living on Empty

I enjoy sushi. Recently a friend called asking where to eat the best sushi. Without hesitation I described the Godzilla roll at Sake in Black Mountain and the seaweed salad at the sushi and atmosphere at Wasabi in Asheville. Why? IT’S GOOD! We are all, by nature, glory declarers. We declare the glory of great ball players, great musicians, great restaurants and great experiences. We can’t help ourselves.

Again and again Scripture instructs us to declare the glory of God. Why? If we are not declaring God’s glory we are declaring the glory of our functional saviors. Jerry Bridges defines these as “any object of dependence we embrace that isn’t God. They become the sources of our identity, security, and significance because we hold an idolatrous affection for them in our hearts.”

So how can we know if we’re bowing at the altar of our functional saviors? He suggests honestly filling in these blanks:

  • I am preoccupied with ___________________.
  • If only _________________, then I would be happy.
  • I get my sense of significance from _____________.
  • I would protect and preserve ____________________ at any cost.
  • I fear losing ____________________.
  • The thing that gives me the greatest pleasure is _________________.
  • When I lose _________________ I get angry, resentful, frustrated, anxious, or depressed.
  • For me, life depends on ________________.
  • The thing I value more than anything in the world is _____________________.
  • When I daydream, my mind goes to __________________.
  • The best thing I can think of is _________________.
  • That thing that makes me want to get out of the bed in the morning is ____________________.

Evaluate yourself. Ask an important person in your life for their opinion. (Don’t get mad when they’re real with you!) According to Jeremiah the stakes are high!

“My people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:11-13)

Functional saviors won’t hold water. Quit living on empty!

Shutting Down the Factory

John Calvin said that man’s nature is a “perpetual factory of idols.” Almost unnoticed idols can creep onto the throne of our hearts and before we know it, we’re worshiping at their altar. Work. Sports. Money. Accomplishments. Alcohol. Someone. Idols come in all shapes and sizes. So how do you shut down the factory? Here are a few steps:

  1. Identify your idols. What allures you may not even interest your friends. The common way of referring to this is, “he has his own demons.” But this terminology deflects the blame from the real source. We all have sinful natures that produce customized idols. How do you know when something has become an idol? Tim Keller says, “When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping.” (Counterfeit Gods)
  2. Put away your idols. Once you know what they are, take the next step to get rid of them. If you’re a workaholic, adjust your work hours. If you’re an alcoholic, quit drinking–completely. If you’re addicted to gambling, don’t carry indiscriminate cash.
  3. Get help. You will not successfully fight idols alone. You’re not equipped to battle alone. Scripture is replete with examples of people who, when left alone, self-destructed. (See Samson, King David, Esau…to name a few). Join a Life Group (email james@graceforall.org). Get counseling (Chuck Tripp is a great resource: 828-803-7281).
  4. Worship God. If the worship of God doesn’t replace whatever else you were worshiping, you will return to your idols. You are created to worship. You will trust in someone or something. Will it be God? Take 3 minutes to let the words of Lauren Daigle’s song sink in.

Lord, I Run to You

God is crazy about you! He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 ESV) He did the unthinkable…giving up his “only begotten son.” When we turn to other gods, He is obviously jealous.

Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:22 ESV)

God’s love for us allows him to be provoked to jealousy. He doesn’t want anyone or anything to come close to taking his place in our lives. We have never been loved, nor will we ever be loved, as deeply as God loves us. Idols can be obvious…or they can be subtle. Kyle Idleman, in his book Gods at War, writes:

“Where Is Your Sanctuary? Where do you go when you’re hurting? Let’s say it’s been a terrible day at the office. You come home and go — where? To the refrigerator for comfort food like ice cream? To the phone to vent with your most trusted friend? Do you seek escape in novels or movies or video games or pornography? Where do you look for emotional rescue? The Bible tells us that God is our refuge and strength, our help in times of trouble — so much so that we will not fear though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Ps. 46:1 – 2). That strikes me as a good place to run. But it’s so easy to forget, so easy for us to run in other directions. Where we go says a lot about who we are. The “high ground” we seek reveals the geography of our values.”

If you have the time (about 7 minutes) worship the Lord as Tommy Walker beautifully sings, “Lord, I Run to You.”

Impostor gods

impostorMouseTherefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6 ESV)

Dictionary.com defines impostor as a person who practices deception under an assumed character, identity, or name. The world is filled with idols–gods with a little “g” that wage war against the one true God. Sometimes they masquerade as beneficial, even necessary, parts of life. A career, investment account, car, accomplishments, hobby, body image, or college degree can look, feel and even act like a god. Other times, gods are inherently evil yet subtly deceptive: alcohol, drugs, pornography, workaholism.

Kyle Idleman, in Gods at War says it this way:

Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightful place, you will not have victory. Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outer layers, and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you begin to see that it’s always there, under some other coat of paint. There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always idolatry.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul makes it clear that God is the goal of our existence and Jesus is the means. He describes God as the Father “from whom are all things and for whom we exist.” In a word, God is not only the beginning of our existence, He is the end!

In the same breath Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the means of our existence. Jesus is the one “through whom are all things,” and “through whom we exist.”

Jesus is no impostor.

He is both the creator and the crucified one. In Genesis, he said “let there be,” and in Gethsemane, he cried, “not my will, but yours be done.” In Genesis he started everything; on the cross he cried, “It is finished.” In Genesis he introduced death; on the 3rd day he conquered death!

Jesus is no impostor.