Random Rants

Killing Our Idolatrous Desires

In a previous entry I said,

I don’t know if it’s because the career I prepared for never began, or because the family I expected to have never happened. The dreams of touring the globe in a worship band or moving to Scotland never materialized. Interrupted dreams can have a hard effect on a soul.

God uses our losses not only to bring glory to His name, but also to bring about His good in our own lives, bring us closer to Him, and bring us to a place of deeper sanctification and reliance on Him.

In Pascal’s Pensees (113), he says:

There once was in a man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself. (Quoted by John Piper in Desiring God, 21. Emphasis mine.)

Anything else you try to put there is an idol. Anything else you try to find your security in is an idol; be it your credit record, your car, your career that you’ve spent so many years preparing for, your position as a pastor or worship leader. “Only by God Himself.”

I’ve talked before about the analogy of Tiger Woods in St. Andrews. Maybe God can use the beauty and the spiritual history of all that has transpired along the banks of the Firth of Tay to teach us a deeper lesson. The thing that you are fighting for, the thing which you are striving so passionately in pursuit of, has to be Me, above all. If you are striving after a goal, even if it is a godly goal that God has put in your heart, you are striving after the wrong thing. It may not mean a change in action as much as a change in mindset. “Only by God Himself.”

…in reality our pain and losses are always a test of how much we treasure the all-wise, all-governing God in comparison to what we have lost. We see this merciful testing of God throughout the Scriptures. For example, in Deuteronomy 8:3 Moses said, “And [God] humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” In other words, God ordains the hard times (“he…let you hunger”) to see if we have made a god out of our good times. Do we love bread, or do we love God? Do we treasure God and trust His good purposes in pain, or do we love His gifts more and get angry when He takes them away? (John Piper, Life as a Vapor, 112)

Dangit! John Piper’s kicking my butt!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11, ESV).

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28, ESV).

I was talking with friends yesterday about how people try and console each other with the words “God will work it out for your good,” but they don’t really understand what that means. People use it as a phrase of comfort—as if to say, “God will (literally) restore to you all the things that you lost,” or, “He has someone better for you”—but what He really has in mind is the death of your idols. The lost possessions will be restored by the Eternal possession we have in Him. “And the LORD said to Aaron, ‘You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel'” (Num 18:20, ESV). In almost identical parallelism, Jesus says

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Mt 6:19-20, ESV)

The “someone better” that the Lord has for us is Himself!

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!

For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”–

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (Rev 19:6-9, ESV)

The Biblical wedding analogy is not just a descriptive picture of what it’s like to be with God. Marriage itself is not the ultimate reality—it’s only a picture of the higher reality, which is our relationship with God. In fact, marriage only has value when it’s seen as a metaphor rather than an end in itself. That’s the ultimate design of it, not procreation. (I can’t remember whether it was Don Miller in one of his books or when he spoke at Calvary Capo Beach, or if it was John Piper or somebody else, but someone said God could have designed any number of ways for us to reproduce, but the very reason he did it the way he did was to paint a picture of Christ and the church).

My point isn’t to devalue marriage in any way, nor is it to glorify it as the ultimate picture of our faith, nor is it even to make myself look like I have or haven’t resigned to the idea of remaining single forever. My point in this is to say that knowing God is the ultimate end. Even the things that we human beings consider most important were not designed as ends in themselves, but as pictures of the higher reality. “Only by God himself.”

…if….we must reckon with the fact that God’s wisdom is the ultimate reason we lost our earthly treasure, then we will be forced to do the very valuable act of testing our hearts to see if we loved something on earth more than the wisdom of God in taking it from us.

All of life is meant to reflect the infinite value of Christ (Philippians 1:20). We show His infinite worth by reasuring Him above all things and all persons. Believing in His all-ruling, all-wise sovereignty helps reveal our idolatries in times of pain and loss. Not believing that God has a wise purpose for every event helps conceal our idolatries. (Piper, Vapor, 115)

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