Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Idols of the Heart

How is it that Paul boasts in his weaknesses? This is not the normal way of things in the world. We boast in power! In greatness! In success and achievement! The way of our hearts is to tell others of what we have done. Have you ever had a conversation where your friend is telling you of something that they had succeeded in, only to find yourself also telling of how well you had done in a similar success? How quickly we like to steal their glory and build our own reputations of power, success, wealth, and strength. In this boasting, you will notice, is no room for Jesus. There is no place for God’s gracious work in the Christ. It is performance-based religion again that has snuck its way into our hearts and out of our mouths. In fact, every worldview apart from Jesus has a system of which to boast of success and accomplishments. What is it about Jesus that calls Christians to radically boast of our inabilities?

My friends, it is the gospel of grace that calls us to weakness. Jesus won our salvation through losing his reputation and life on the cross, he achieved power through weakness and brokenness, he gained glory by giving it away. This is the way of the Kingdom of Jesus: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” It is the ones who know that they are broken, messed up, hopeless in their own power that find salvation in Jesus Christ. This does not change after our conversion, but is amplified and swells into a Holy Spirit empowerment of humble praise to Jesus.

Humility and brokenness, powerlessness and weakness, are the ways of the Christian, so that Jesus might be proclaimed as the all in all. Let us not pretend that we no longer struggle with sin, that sin is deep within our hearts to this day. The flesh remains to do battle with the Holy Spirit and the apostle John says in his first letter that “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” So, why don’t most of us boast in our weakness? Why do we find ourselves building our own reputations and seeking our own glory through demanding power, respect, and service from others? Why do we get angry when someone points out our weaknesses? Why do we fret in depression and anxiety when we see our weakness? We do these things because we are not, at that moment, seeing Jesus and His gospel, His complete substitution for us. Instead, we find ourselves again setting up idols within our hearts, things in which we seek to find fulfillment, significance, and salvation through our performance.

The root of every sin on the surface is idolatry in the heart. We think that we need something in addition to Jesus to give us satisfaction or acceptance, and we depend on them to deliver it. This is simply idolatry.

These idols rule our thoughts and our emotions, and lead us to outwardly sin. We must go to the root of the sin in order to deal with it. So, let’s look a little closer at the idolatry of our hearts, so that we can apply the gospel of Jesus Christ to our hearts and see the freedom of weakness that the grace of God can bring in Jesus Christ as we turn to him in repentance of our idols and in the joy of our freedom.

Take a few moments of silence to search your heart and identify any idols that may be present. This will be a lifelong struggle, so please don’t see this as a one-time thing. We are more weak than we know and we will find that we have set up idols again and they must be torn down again for the sake of the gospel. But, right now think of your own heart: Where do I find myself anxious and fearful time and time again? What am I thinking that I must have to be happy, significant, fulfilled, to have meaning in my life? Where do I find myself getting angry a lot? What am I believing that I must have that somebody is keeping me from? What is that thing I am blocked from that I feel will give me meaning? Now, let’s apply the gospel.

Jesus says: “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is perfected in weakness.”

To the Glory of God Alone