An “Idol” Mind is the Devil’s Workshop – Part 1

May 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Wade's Weekly Word

One of my elementary school teacher’s favorite expressions was, “Boys and girls, always remember that an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.” Although there is a great deal of truth in this axiom, it doesn’t really get to the main part of the devil’s workshop, because his center for mass production is in the idol making factory of the human mind.

John Calvin observed long ago that the human heart, our image-bearing and image-fashioning nature, is an idol factory. In spite of all our learning and scientific achievements, this is no less true today than it was in the 16th Century when Calvin made this observation. This being true, I want to rephrase the proverb to read: “An IDOL Mind is the Devil’s Workshop!

In the Bible there is no more serious charge than that of idolatry. Idolatry called for the strictest punishment, elicited the most disdainful accusations from the prophets, prompted the most extreme measures of avoidance and was regarded as the chief identifying characteristic of those who were the very antithesis of the people of God, namely the Gentiles. Fundamental to Israel’s life and faith were the first commandment and its exposition in the Shema (Dt. 6:4-5), which were from early on regarded as touching every aspect of life. The early church likewise treated idol worship with the utmost seriousness.

Idolatry is the ultimate expression of unfaithfulness to God and for that reason is the occasion for severe divine punishment.

Idolatry is more than just an ancient problem of the ignorant, it’s more than just a pagan problem of people in remote jungles today – it’s a human problem – a modern problem, and a persistent problem for every Christian! Underneath every sin is idolatry in general. Our idol-making minds create false gods or false images of the one true God and then trust them to make us happy, give us peace, pleasure, purpose, and power in life. Since God desires that we be truly happy and knows that this happiness can come from Him alone, idolatry is seen to be very serious and is attacked very powerfully and pervasively.

What is an idol? An idol is anything that controls you other than the true Lord God in Heaven. In the Old Testament an idol wasn’t just something the people worshipped but something they feared. An idol is anything that you have to check with before obeying God.

Paul reveals that unnatural, ungodly fear is a spirit. When the spirit of fear controls your life, then you are under the lordship of an idol. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Dudley Hall said, “If we have another god, we will fear him. So what does that reveal about our fears? It means for every fear, we have at least one god.”

Pastor Tim Keller’s definition of idolatry is new in its explanation, but ancient in its exercise: “Idolatry is taking a good thing and making it an ultimate thing.”

What is in our lives–if suddenly taken away–would affect us to the point that we might not want to go on living? This is a tough question that gets to the heart of what we organize our lives around for meaning, identity, significance, and love other than God.

Why does God take idolatry so seriously and judge it so devastatingly? Dr. Greg Beale answers this very clearly and convincingly in his book, “We Become What We Worship”:  “We resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration. God has made all peoples to reflect, to be imaging beings. People will always reflect something, whether it is God’s character or some feature of the world.”

 The punishment for idolatry is to become like your idol – a spiritual deaf mute, demonically motivated and personally devastated.

What is the answer for idolatry? The answer is not found in going on some kind of iconoclastic campaign to destroy all idols privately in my heart and publically in our cultures. The answer is in living in, off and by the gospel of God, in which He proves His love for us by sending us Jesus to become one of us, to die for us in self-giving love in order that we may enter into an ever-living, ever-loving, ever-lasting relationship with Him. The provision of this unconditional, unearned love relationship convinces us that we have the most valuable, worthy, precious, priceless, Heavenly Father and to revere and worship Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength is to realize the very purpose for our existence, as well as transforming us into His likeness.

This satisfying, gratifying, glorifying fellowship makes idols pointless and repulsive. The antidote to idolatry is being satisfied with all that God promised to be for us in Jesus. This grace-based love-blessed relationship is available to us all as an unearnable gift from God. The crucial question is whether we will receive it on God’s terms, on terms that renounce idols. These terms can be challenging for us, given our customary reliance on idols (see Mark 10:17-27), and given our tendencies toward enabling idolatry in others. We do the latter when we encourage or ignore, rather than challenge in love, the idolatry practiced by others. In receiving Jesus as Lord, in contrast, we find the key to freedom both from idolatry and from the enabling of idolatry in others. We find freedom to live in unselfish love as we receive God’s freely given love.”

Because of the massive ramifications of idolatry, we join the apostle’s Paul and John in admonishing the saints: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

“Howers” or “Wowers” – Which? – Part 1

June 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Wade's Weekly Word

(Please take time to read the following scriptures: Luke 1:11-13, 18-20,57, 03-64; Romans 11:33-36)

The initial experience of being miraculously birthed into God’s Family evokes a childlike – Wow! Jesus taught that if we are going to access the kingdom, progress in the kingdom, and have success in the kingdom, we must maintain a child-likeness. Not a childish foolishness, or fickleness, but a child-like faith, a child-like desire for fun, and a child-like delight in the Father and His Family! Unfortunately, most Christians get over the Wow of their childlike faith – replacing, it with an How of doubt, disbelief and dashed hopes. Most Christian are more likely to come to church as a skeptic, asking HOW, rather than as a child of God that shouts WOW! More come as an auditor of truth than as a worshipper of the One who is the Truth. The expressions on the faces of the people in the pew is a “so what,” instead of the exclamation of OH!!! the wonder of it all, just to think that this great God loved and included me in His plan, and I can call Him my Father! His promises to me are yes and amen in Jesus, and have never failed!

Loss of Hope is the Basic Reason Why “Wowers” Become “Howers”!

Proverbs 13:12, tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. “ Another~ way to say this would-be when expectations are dashed, detoured, or severely delayed; when prayers go unanswered, when God’s promises seem to fail, there is a loss of hope that tends to imprison us in chains of heartsickness. If we aren’t careful we become fearful of expecting very much from the Lord due to the anticipated hurts of more disappointment.

A. Hope Deferred Leads to a Faith Decline, which Becomes Skeptical of Anything Divine! – 1:5-7, 18

Zacharias, was a priest, married to a godly woman, serving the Lord faithfully. Luke 1:6 And they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. Yet he had become a victim of hope-deferred. The angel told him in Luke 1:13, that his pray had been heard-but after so many years, perhaps 35-40 years, of asking for a son, hope-deferred had made him a skeptical “hower”, instead of a worshipping, faith-filled “wower.”

The tendency of Christian “Howers”, of hope-deferred victims, is to do like Zachariah – to stay faithful to the church, do our duty by worshipping and offering our prayers and incense every week. Yet because of dashed hopes, unanswered prayers, and unchanged circumstances, we find it difficult to believe in the supernatural, tend to miss the presence of the Lord when He shows up, and are always wanting some sign from God to lift our faith from its doubting dungeon. We lay hands on the sick but don’t expect them to recover. We pray for the Holy Spirit to move in power and renewal yet we are skeptical of it ever happening. If there is any move of the Spirit that we can’t analyze and categorize, we rationalize it away. We lift our hands high in worship on Sunday, but our hearts are low, cold, and cynical because hope has been deferred.

Hope-deferred produces resignation, fear, unbelief, loss of passion, escapism, depression, and skepticism. Hope-deferred in the lives of Abraham and Sarah had led to advanced stages of heart sickness. After 24 years of waiting for God’s promise to become a reality, the final stages of soul-sickness had set in.
Gen 17:17-18, “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!”
Gen 18:10-12, ‘And he said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

Hope deferred, if left unchecked moves you from a Wower to a Hower through a downward progression.

1. Discouragement—courage is having a heart. The prefix dis means loss of heart
2. Confusion – doubts arise and fears dismay, dreams are questioned, prophecies are discarded as highly unlikely to be fulfilled.
3. Unbelief—Hopes are dashed and faith has no shoulders to stand on.
4. Disillusionment – This is a cover up for feeling angry at God for disappointing you.
5. Bitterness—This is anger gone underground. It’s a root that grows when grace isn’t appreciated and appropriated, and as a result, we become ingrates.
6. Cynicism and Skepticism – A deadness and numbness of heart sets in and even our laughter is that of cynicism, sarcasm, and pessimism.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, also had a divine visitation and was told what would happen to her. She too raised a question of how, and grammatically they are the same, but she is given and explanation and Zacharias is given a reprimand. She is brought to a quick Wow! and he is disciplined for his unbelieving How?

Luke 1:34-35, “And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:38, ‘And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.”

What made the difference – the state of their hearts! Mary, a young teenager wasn’t a victim of hope-deferred heart sickness. Mary’s question indicates surprise not disbelief. Unlike Zacharias, she asked no sign. Zacharias wanted proof. Mary wanted to know the process. This teenage girl going about her humble daily duties shows a more ready faith in the far more astounding message than the aged priest in the holy place of the temple in the atmosphere of the sacred incense.

God did two things with Zacharias’ lack of faith. One, he answered his prayer anyway. Jesus rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith and refused to perform miracles due to lack of faith. Yet, due to the indispensable need of the forerunner, John the Baptist, God answered a prayer in spite of a lack of faith, yet with a penalty. Zacharias lack of faith caused God to take away his voice. Four faithless words spoken from a heart made sick by hope deferred cost Zacharias forty weeks of silence!

Zacharias was kind of like the preacher who played golf on his Sunday vacation. When an angel pointed out the unfaithful servant to God, God said, “Watch.” The preacher pared the first hole, birdied the second, eagled the third, double-eagled the fourth, and shot a hole-in-one on the fifth. Confused, the angel asked God, “Why are you giving this preacher such a good golf game when he should be in church?” God smiled and said, “Who can he tell?” Like this preacher, Zacharias had, had an incredible encounter with and angel, but he couldn’t tell anyone. He had great news but couldn’t tell anyone. He and Elizabeth were going to have a son. Their son was to be the forerunner of God’s Son. The long-awaited Messiah was coming and Zechariah could tell no one. Zechariah remained mute until the birth of his son. God frustrated him because God was aggravated with his lack of faith. This is the cost of being a Hower instead of a Wower – you lose your voice for praise, testimony witness, prophesying and preaching!

Are you a Hower or a Wower?

(We will conclude the message next week with Part 2)

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