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Monday, March 26, 2012

'Idols of the Heart' - Chapters 7-8

Ask someone to tell you what God is like and chances are they'll tell you about their personal conception of God. There's only one way we can accurately know the character of God, however, and it's not achieved by creating our own ideas and impressions about Him. It is to conceive of Him as He has revealed Himself to actually be in Scripture. In fact, God warns against ever imagining that He is like us. Through Asaph the Psalmist, God rebuked His people for creating a false image of Him, writing, "You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes." (Ps.50:21). When we create a false picture of God in our mind (our thoughts, beliefs, judgments & imaginations), we have created an idol, a false god, a god of our own imagination. It's only "by immersing ourselves in Spirit-enlightened study of God through Scripture" that we can avoid the error of creating "the comfort of a loving god without the demands of a holy god." Rather than wanting God to be like us, we need to apply our thinking, reasoning & discernment to our becoming more like Him, holy and set apart for His use. 
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment..." [Romans 12:1-3]
It is through the renewing of our mind, the putting off of wrong conceptions and the putting on of Scriptural truth, that we are able to obtain an accurate view of who God really is and who we really are. It is in this way that we can avoid "the sin of worshiping a god of our imagination ... a god who thinks just like us, whom we can command and manipulate for our pleasure. ... We need concentrated doses of truth on a daily basis about the God who really is."

The danger of creating false gods in our minds is that they breed disobedience. "We sin because we believe that there's some happiness to be gained by it. It's then that our thoughts about happiness become our god." Rather than using our minds to discern God's truth and guard ourselves from idolatry, when we think wrong thoughts about God and wrong thoughts about ourselves we can actually come to believe the lie, rather than God! Fitzpatrick offers several questions we can use to test ourselves so that we may discover exactly what/who it is that we are trusting in God's place.
  • What do I believe about the source of true happiness in this circumstance? 
  • What do I believe about God in this circumstance?
  • What do I believe about myself - my rights, my goals, my desires? [Anytime we start thinking about our "rights" an alarm should go off in our minds!]
  • What am I trusting in?
Believers are to be continuously "destroying/demolishing/casting down speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and ... (be) taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," (2Cor.10:5) 

Fitzpatrick points out in Chapter 8: "Longing for God," that God created man "with the capacity to experience great happiness in obedience to Him." But because of sin, man's nature has been "warped out of shape." 
Our hearts, the fount from which all our sin flows (Mt.12:34), have ceased to be God-centered and have become self-centered. Rather than living life to reflect God for His glory, man lives for his own glory, seeking happiness in his own reflection. Rather than living in humble submission to God's word, trusting that His way is best, we rely on our own understanding. (Prov.3:5) ... Now, rather than worshiping his Creator and finding happiness in God, he'll create a god in his own image; rather than reflecting oneness with others for God's glory, he'll pursue relationships primarily for his glory and pleasure; rather than working so that God's works would be known and glorified by others, he chases after and loves money, respect, and prestige.
Our only hope for restoring our relationship with God is "to be reborn in the image of Jesus Christ - the only Man who ever fulfilled His role in creation." It's only through accepting God's gracious provision through His Son that God's wrath can be averted, His justice be fulfilled and reconciliation can take place. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6) When we believe Him and come to Him in faith, we are no longer in bondage to our sin nature. That's not to say that we're sinless. It means we have a God-given ability to see and understand God's truth instead of the lie and through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have the God-given empowerment to obey Him, thus bringing Him glory and giving us increasing joy in Him.
The wonderful truth is that all our longings are met in Christ. He's come to give us abundant life, but He doesn't do so by satisfying sinful desires. He satisfies us by turning our hearts away from them toward Him. He shows us the emptiness in our cravings and the great joy of oneness with Him and with His children. He's the source and satisfaction of all our happiness. All we need is found in Him.

Idols of the Heart, Elyse Fitzpatrick
[Review: Intro, Chapters 1-2; Chapters 3-4; Chapters 5-6]

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