Luther on Idolatry and Trust

Martin Luther’s Large Catechism begins with a shrewd reflection on the first commandment: “You are to have no other gods.” That is, you are to regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What does “to have a god” mean, or what is God? Answer: A “god” is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God.

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God’s Greatest Adversaries Are His Gifts

John Piper, A Hunger for God | “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ills that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable. Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is

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What is an Idol?

From Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods: What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry. When your meaning in life is to

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Tim Challies on Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was in so many ways a product of this sick celebrity culture (that he helped create) that will never rest satisfied until it has both created and then destroyed the newest celebrity. We want our celebrities to start strong and finish weak, to begin with a bang and then fizzle, pop and sputter, all for our enjoyment and entertainment (Susan Boyle stands as the most recent example of this). Jackson gave us so much to talk about, so much to enjoy. More than any other celebrity he embodied the “vanities” of Ecclesiastes. He was at one time known for what he did so well and then was known for being a freak; he was at one time fantastically wealthy and then utterly broke; he was once loved and then despised. He had it all and yet, it seemed, he had nothing. All of it was meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (HT: Justin Taylor)

Ministry Idolatry

My thanks to Justin Childers for this challenging piece: Driscoll’s second message at the Advance ’09 conference a few weeks ago was the best message on idolatry I’ve ever heard. I would highly encourage you to listen to the audio or watch the video from that message. It is time for the church to begin identifying and repenting of the good things we’ve used to replace God. Here are the 11 types of idolatry Driscoll ended the message with, along with a penetrating question to help us identify these subtle idolatries (keep in mind he is talking to church leaders): . 1. Attendance idolatry: Does your joy change when attendance at church goes up or down? 2. Gift idolatry: Do you feel as if God needs you because you are so skilled? 3. Truth idolatry: Do you consider yourself more godly than more simple Christians? 4. Fruit idolatry: Do you point to your success as proof that God loves you? 5. Tradition idolatry: What traditions are

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3 questions with Tim Keller

By Garrett E. Wishall Tim Keller serves as senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, N.Y. Question: What do pastors need to be doing to lead their flock out of idolatry and into Christlikeness? Tim Keller: The subject of idolatry is a lot more nuanced and complex than I could possibly get across in my talk at the Gospel Coalition conference. I made an allusion to the fact that idolatry sometimes is talked about in the Bible under the heading of spiritual adultery. It is also sometimes talked about under the heading of spiritual mastery and slavery. When Paul talks about those who are slaves to sin: all of those categories are actually talking about idolatry. Most preachers feel like “If I’m going to preach about idols, I have to tell people what an idol is.” What they don’t have in mind is: idolatry is at the root of all of our psychological problems, moral problems, cultural issues, our

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Tim Keller on Religious Idols

From Josh Harris: [In] his message at The Gospel Coalition, Tim Keller talked about the importance of confronting idols in preaching the gospel. He taught that idolatry is anything I look at and say, “If I have that, my life has value.” Idolatry is making a good thing an ultimate thing. Keller described three categories of idols: personal, religious and cultural. I thought his description of religious idols was particularly compelling. He said that those who worship religious idols think they are devoted to God, but they’re not. He then described three potential religious idols: Truth can be made an idol. Are you resting in the rightness of your doctrine rather than the work of Jesus? If so, the Bible calls you a fool. In Proverbs, “the scoffer” is a person like this. The scoffer is always sure he is right, and always disrespectful, disdainful, and mocking toward his opponents. The internet breeds scoffers, because if you’re a scoffer you

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Santa Christ?

Justin Taylor posts this topical piece from Sinclair Ferguson: we may denigrate our Lord with a Santa Claus Christology. How sadly common it is for the church to manufacture a Jesus who is a mirror refection of Santa Claus. He becomes Santa Christ.Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough.” So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners. Or Santa Christ may be a Semi-Pelagian Jesus — a slightly more sophisticated Jesus who, Santa-like, gives gifts to those who have already done the best they could! Thus, Jesus’ hand, like Santa’s sack, opens only when we can give an

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Every sin [idol] mimics God!

This is so good from Ray Ortlund: “All those who wander far away and set themselves up against you are imitating you, but in a perverse way; yet by this very mimicry they proclaim that you are the Creator of the whole of nature and that in consequence there is no place whatever where we can hide from your presence.” Augustine, Confessions, Book 2, Section 14. Every sin is not an original composition but a fake, an imitation of something real and wonderful. It is the photographic negative of beauty found in God alone. There is no way to escape God. His truth lurks even in our sins. No one, including the most extreme sinner, will ever be able to say, “God, you were completely beyond my range of awareness and experience.” Our sins only testify to him. Why not go directly to God, where we’ll actually be happy?