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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'Idols of the Heart' - Chapters 3-4

These next chapters remind us of the basic truths underlying our salvation & Christian life. There's often much confusion in these areas, resulting in a lack of understanding and appreciation for the hopelessness of our former position before a holy God and His past, current and future work of grace in our lives. Note how all three persons of the Godhead work together for the benefit of those whom He "foreknew ...predestined ...called ...justified ...glorified" (Romans 8:29-30). As humans we're very ego-centric, viewing reality from our own limited perspective. It's humbling to consider the work of God behind the scenes to bring about His purposes.

Fitzpatrick examines God's moral law as a reflection of His holy character and as a revealer of our own sinfulness. The law was never intended to be the means of salvation. Its function was to be our "tutor" to make us aware of our great spiritual need and then lead us to Christ, that "we may be justified by faith". (Gal.3:24) In the sermon on the mount Jesus carefully explained the only possible terms by which a man can come to God ... by approaching Him as one who is fully aware of his own spiritual bankruptcy and neediness before a holy God. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," He taught. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven because only they can understand the futility of an already unrighteous man ever becoming righteous through self-effort! (Mt.5:3) Only they can "mourn" over their sins before a holy God and be comforted by Him. (Mt.5:4) Only they can be "meek/submissive/obedient" before God. (Mt.5:5) Only they can "hunger and thirst for (God's) righteousness". (Mt.5:6) Only they "shall see God." (Mt.5:8) Fitzpatrick echoes Jesus' words...
The law helps me by serving as a tutor. ("Blessed are the poor in spirit" - those who understand their own spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God.) ...if I examine myself in God's mirror (the perfect law), I find that I am failing in every conceivable way.
The law also humbles me and brings me to the end of my self-righteousness. ("Blessed are those that mourn" - over their sin against a holy God.) As Paul writes, "I would not have come to know sin except through the Law" (Rom.7:7). ...I have nothing for which to commend myself before a completely holy God. That's a good place for my soul to be in because it causes me to throw myself wholly on His mercy to me through Christ. It strips away my illusions of goodness and helps me to see how much I am in need of God's forgiveness.
The law teaches me how thankful I am to be for Christ's perfect keeping of it. ("Blessed are the meek" - those who are meekly/humbly obedient before a holy God.) I am bound to Christ because He kept it perfectly, then bore the punishment for my law breaking in His body. By this my heart is prompted to overflow with love and obedience.
The law becomes the standard of righteousness that I seek to obey out of thankfulness. ("Blessed are those who hunger & thirst after [God's] righteousness.") Like a thankful child seeking to please a favored parent, my desire for holiness wells up out of a heart filled with gratitude. ...My righteousness is secure in Christ's perfect obedience for me, and by the work of His Spirit, I am becoming "zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:14)
At salvation God begins His work of sanctification (Chapter 4, 'The Heart Changer') in the lives of His people. His goal is for us "to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom.8:29). At salvation the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and begins His life-long work of sanctification ... a "setting apart" for God's holy purpose. 
There is only one life-changing power in all the world: the Holy Spirit. He continuously works in mysterious yet profound ways causing us to be holy, even as He is.
The means He uses is God's revealed Word. We're not passive in the process; it's a cooperative effort energized by God and resulting in our willing obedience. God commands, "putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (i.e. sanctification). (1 Peter 2:1-2) There's both a "putting off" of the works of the flesh/sin nature and a "putting on" of a desire to know God's Word, so that we may  know Him at an ever-increasing depth of understanding! Fitzpatrick outlines the different ways the Holy Spirit uses God's Word to make us holy. "You shall be holy for I am holy," (1Pet.1:6) He has determined for those united to Christ.
Teaching Us the Glories of Christ. Like a master artist, the Spirit paints an exquisite portrait of Christ's perfections upon the canvas of our souls: illustrating His love, mercy, wisdom, kindness, humility, holiness, sorrows, and sweet amiableness. ...Embracing Christ's beauty and glory is essential, because worship is a product of love. As the Holy Spirit illumines your heart to Christ's beauty, your love will grow. The false gods that entice will lose their appeal. The Spirit makes us God-worshipers."
Conviction of Sin. The Spirit powerfully convicts the world about the sin of unbelief. The sin of unbelief lies at the heart of all other sins and particularly at the heart of idolatry.
Conviction about Righteousness. It is particularly important for us to contemplate Christ's perfect nature because idolatry is always an assault against the character of God. Every time our hearts turn toward the worship of false gods we're saying, God isn't really good. He's not righteous. He's not loving or holy. I have to find other gods who will satisfy me because Jesus either can't or won't.
Conviction about Judgment. "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (1Jn.3:8) When you are tempted to think that the battle is lost and you might as well give up and serve other gods, plead with the Spirit to help you know that your enemy is a condemned death-row criminal awaiting execution of his sentence (Rev.20:10).
Writing His word on our hearts. God's law now governs our lives internally, from our heart, as the Spirit helps us understand its meaning and applies it in our day-to-day lives. ...This anointing from the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth (Jn.16:13). He teaches us so that we can come to know God as He is, rather than how we imagine Him to be.
Inclining our hearts to worship Him. Without the work of God's Spirit, we'll worship everything, rather anything, but God. He must work, then, to incline our hearts to worship Him. (1 Kings 8:57-58) Solomon understood that the Holy Spirit needed to incline the hearts of his people to proper worship.
Convincing us we are God's children. (Rom.8:15-16) The realization of His close relation to you should encourage you to focus all your love and devotion on Him.
Teaching us to pray. As we struggle with our sinful idolatry, we'll frequently find ourselves in prayer for wisdom, strength, true hatred of sin, and love of righteousness. ...The Spirit knows what the Father's will is, and He guides us in our prayers.
The work of God in our lives demonstrates His faithfulness to us and is our strongest weapon against idolatry. "God is faithful ... Therefore, flee from idolatry." (1Cor.10:13-14) These are the truths we need to steep ourselves in, to remember always, to cherish closely whenever we are tempted to trust anything or anyone other than God.

Idols of the Heart, Elyse Fitzpatrick
[Review: Intro, Chapters 1-2]


Anonymous said...

There were a few things that struck me in these two chapters. I love Fitzpatrick’s quote “God wasn’t releasing the Israelites from slavery so that they could join Club Med. He set them free so that they would celebrate, serve, and worship Him.” This Club Med mentality was so much mine before I was truly saved! I wanted all the “goodies” of salvation, a care free life, all of God’s blessings but none of the responsibilities or difficulties – just like the Israelites.

In reading about the Ten Commandments, it struck me that I never thought about the beauty of the law that Jesus kept perfectly – the perfect pattern. If I read through the Ten Commandments and think about how Jesus keeps them perfectly, this shows me what kind of person I am to be before God. It’s like a blueprint for me to follow, not legalistically, but out of love and desire to follow and imitate my Savior. So if you look at the Ten Commandments, who do you see but Jesus Christ personified? I find that this takes some of the edge off of legalism in my heart.

I also love Fitzpatrick’s statement “without the intervention of God’s Spirit, we’re hopelessly doomed to invent false gods.” Thank you Lord for your Holy Holy Holy Spirit!!!


Beth'sMomToo said...

Your mention of Christ perfectly keeping the Law brings to mind his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), in which He goes into detail of what it means to keep the commandments ... to a level we can hardly imagine! It involves our inner attitude, motivations & expectations before it ever affects our outer actions. I think we're often quick to assure ourselves that we keep God's moral law without realizing exactly what that is supposed to look like in action. I recommend everyone take a look at those chapters in Matthew in order to challenge yourself with Christ's examples.