Tag Archives: Gospel Treason

What are you storing up?

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  Matthew 12:33-34

About two months ago, a second grade boy on the playground was involved in a kick fight on the playground. In the midst of a mean game tag that ended up with this boy and a couple of others kicking each other, he turned and kicked a kindergarten boy, an innocent bystander, and said, “F— you, little boy.”  The playground teacher brought him in for me to deal with him.

One of the things I talked to him about was his language.  I asked him when he began using words like that, and he said, “Last fall.”  I said if he could remember when he started using that word, he could remember when he stopped, because it’s a choice.  And today (that day) was the day he was going to make a choice to stop.  When I talked with his mom about the incident, I quoted this verse.  I knew she was a Christian.  I said something about him needing to get more good stored up in his heart, otherwise it’s those swear words that get stored up and come out at inconvenient times.

I talked with her about how going to church and singing worship songs stores us things in our hearts about God, His goodness, and our choices.  Those worship songs speak to our hearts.  Having those songs on in our vehicles and in our houses instead of other music is a chance to store up good things in our hearts.  I was thrilled when she told me that she was taking her boys to Sunday school and church about a month later.  Even though her husband wasn’t going, which had been her deterrent all of the previous years, it wasn’t going to be anymore.  Praise God!

Yesterday in Sunday school we talked more about Matthew 12:33-34 as we discussed again Brad Bigney’s book: Gospel Treason, Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols.  On page 60, Bigney makes the statement, “I’ve been shocked at things that have come out of my mouth–things that I’ve been forced to trace back to my heart.  It’s been a wake-up call, a sledgehammer for self-deception, because we always think we’re doing better than we really are.”

I think the reason bad things come popping out of our mouths is because they have been stored up in our heart.  We can have a “resentment warehouse,” where we keep all of our offenses, our bitternesses, grievances and unresolved conflicts.

Think about it.  Let’s say someone does something to offend you and you never resolve it.  You always remember it.  You might forget the dozens of nice things that person says or does, but you remember the one time that he or she had a birthday party and didn’t invite you (or whatever it was).  You never talked about it with that person, instead you ‘let it slide.’  But you really didn’t let it slide, you tucked it away in that resentment warehouse.

resentment warehouse.jpgAnd then, one day when you’re tired, or your guard is down, or you’re not feeling well, and–boom!  You say how you really feel.  You both look at each other like, “Where did that come from?”  Sometimes it comes out through sarcasm, or it comes out through passive aggressive moves, through back stabbing comments, or through some other destructive move.  And you have to trace it back.  Sometimes you can trace it back, sometimes you can’t.

In the case of the resentment warehouse, it isn’t necessarily evil that is stored up, like the boy that shouted out, “F— you, little boy.”  We might not call it evil, but it is.  Ephesians 4:30-32 reads, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s time to clean out your warehouse.

 


The Great Exchange

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God…but they became futile in their thinking…Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for stuff (me)…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  Romans 1:21-25

I used to think this was the progression that idol worshipers in places like Papua New Guinea followed–some remote island.  But not me.  I’m not an idol worshiper!  I don’t have carved images in my backyard or on my mantel.  And I’m not like the pagans in my community who go golfing on Sunday mornings while I’m up early for prayer meeting, Sunday school and church.  They have idols, but not me.

Think again.  I’ve been slowly working through Brad Bigney’s  book, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols with a great group of women.  We’re just in the second chapter, so the best is yet to come in this archaeological dig of the heart.  I’m just in the first layer of unearthing my own heart.  I’m seeing that, though I might cloak my idols in a different veneer, they are there.

Anything I exchange for the one true God is an idol.  I can exchange the glory of God for stuff, materialistic things that I can hold on to.  And I can exchange the truth of God for any lie that I cling to that I think is easier to hold on to than to really believe what He has promised.  That’s my great exchange.

idol-7Back in Exodus when the Israelites were waiting for Moses to come back down from the mountain they had Aaron make a golden calf.  That seemed so silly to me.  They had just seen God part the Red Sea and drown the Egyptian army and all.  Now they have to wait 40 days and it’s too long?  But God has given us front row seats to His glory too and when He’s not on our timetable we go running off to something or someone else all too easily.  We turn to something we can control because we lose the faith or patience or the toughness that it takes to wait it out just a little longer until God delivers.

I remember working at an all girls’ camp and being over a dozen counselors and about 50 teenage girls.  The tricky part was that there was a boys camp across the lake and around the bend.  So my sleep was disrupted regularly by trying to catch the occasional interlopers.  The one that sticks in my mind was a twenty something counselor that was busted hooking up with a guy counselor at chapel point, (of all places) to have sex.  Her justification was, “in case she never gets a chance again.”  Really?  So like the golden calf crowd.

We get jumpy and stay in the drivers seat and exchange the truth of God for a lie.  The lie might be that trusting in money is better than trusting in God.  Isn’t it funny that we have “In God we trust” on our money (when we really trust in money)?  A friend from college stopped in about ten years after and I asked him how he was doing spiritually.  He was an engineer in a glass company and was doing quite well.  He was shockingly honest and said that he wasn’t doing well spiritually.  He said he had the same attitude he used to have when he smoked pot, but now it was money that he was smoking.  I looked at him funny, and he said that he was embedded in materialism.  No one at church bothered him about it. He said it wasn’t like when he smoked pot, but it was the same rebellion.  The good news was when I saw him about five years later and asked him if he was still smoking money, he said he wasn’t.  I could tell he was much healthier spiritually.

 God isn’t always on our timetable so we get take matters into our own hands, just like the golden calf crowd and we turn to something we can control, says Bigney–even though idols serve us so poorly, and hurt us and cost us.  But we think they’re more predictable than God is, and they keep us in the driver’s seat.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that “We walk by faith, not by sight,” but I think at core we wrestle with that most of the time.  The first thing Martha said to Jesus in John 11 was “You’re late,” when she had sent word to him that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus didn’t come right away and now he was dead.  Don’t we tell God He’s late a lot?    Jesus told Martha it was for the glory of God that He waited.  In chapter 2 of his book, Bigney says that “God is good, but He’s not safe. He will mess with your life–not just to be messing with it, but to conform you to the image of Christ.”

Jesus came late to mess with Martha and Mary because He had something so much bigger up His sleeve than just healing their brother.  He wanted to prove that He was the resurrection and the life and to give them a sneak preview of a huge coming attraction–His own resurrection.  And they got front row seats.  Wow.  Follow Jesus and that’s what He’ll do with you.  Put your life on the line and He’ll take your clean little life and turn it into a big, messy one.  Is it safe?  NO.  But like Mr. Beaver told Susan in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course He isn’t safe.  But He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Still in chapter 2, Bigney quotes Richard Keyes, from “The Idol Factory,” in No One but God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age.  Keyes says that, paraphrased, we make idols because we don’t want to face God himself and His holiness.  So rather than to deal with His lordship, we orient ourselves towards ‘creations,’ and kind of make up our own rules.

In other words, we have the evidence of God within ourselves and in the world, but it’s too demanding to play life by God’s rules.  So then we make up our own religion that looks kind of like God’s, but we’re the ones in control.  It’s too difficult to really draw near to God, because if you’re entertaining unconfessed sin, or flat out rebelling, you can’t be in the same zip code with God.  His holiness will consume you.  You’ll go nuts.

Keyes goes on to say, “Since we were made to relate to God, but do not want to face Him, we forever inflate things in this world to religious proportions to fill the vacuum left by God’s exclusion.”  That’s why we have elevated sports to such an over the top status, even in Christian families.  Bigney words it so well: “As Christians–lovers of Jesus Christ–we have a higher calling.”

As soon as we drift away from Christ and the centrality of the gospel, we start erecting substitutes for God.  That’s why our culture is so desperate to make heroes and celebrities our everything and everybody–because of our innate yearning for God and the freedom of His gospel, both of which we as a people have rejected.  And we try to fill the void with hero and celebrity worship.

The antidote?  Shine a light on your heart, but quickly turn it to Jesus.  Read the Gospels, delight in grace and what Jesus has done.  Don’t drift.  In Sunday School we decided to ask ourselves the question about what we needed to fast from that might have a foothold where it ought not have.  Bigney’s question in identifying idols is “Am I willing to sin to get it?”

Where have I exchanged God’s best for a lie, a cheap substitute?  Where have I caved to something that is easier than to walk by faith and have chosen instead to walk by sight?

We’re going on an archaeological dig straight into our hearts.  I’ll tell you what I find.


Is that a shovel in your hand?

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13

holes shovelsOne of my favorite kids’ movies is the movie “Holes” from the book by Louis Sachar.  The kids at the juvenile detention camp, “Camp Green Lake” have to dig holes in the desert day in and day out.  The warden  is in search of a generations old treasure and the teens are the forced labor.  The song that plays as they dig has the line of “Keep digging those holes, diggin’.”

As we hew cisterns for ourselves that are broken and can hold no water, that song might has well be playing in the background.  “But wait a minute,” you cry, “I’m a Jesus lover.  I have not forsaken Him, nor have I dug my own well that can hold no water.”  Really?

I am reading a challenging book by Brad Bigney called, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols (P&R Publishing).  In it he talks about how we can give our hearts and our affections, our first love, over to something else.  That thing becomes our driving force to what we do.  Then we become idolaters.

I often read through the Old Testament and wonder how they could have altars to Baal or Asherah poles in their back yards or high hills and not connect the dots.  Like someone should have said: “Wake up!  How did we fall so far?  Get rid of these idols!”  Yet when someone looks back on our culture, they might see the things that we’ve allowed and  there will be certain idols that will be so clear to them that aren’t clear to us.

If we move away from the Bible, from Jesus, from what Romans 1:21 describes as essential: knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him–then we engage in the ‘Great Exchange.’  The ‘Great Exchange’ of Romans 1 is exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the created things instead of God the creator, exchanging  natural pleasures for unnatural ones.  Turn on the television or the computer and you see it and hear it.  Again, that’s not us!  Or is it?

I don’t have a shovel in my hands.   Or do I?  When the Israelites fashioned the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, again, I judge.  How could they?  God had just parted the Red Sea.  Do they have amnesia?  God was too slow–Moses was up on that mountain too long.  How often do I turn to something I can control, instead of waiting on God, even though it serves me poorly?  It’s a broken cistern, an idol, sin, rebellion–whatever you want to call it.  I’ve got a shovel in my hand and gold dust on my clothes.

My broken cisterns cost me.  They might be more predictable than God is, and they might keep me in the driver’s seat, but they cannot hold water.  They don’t deliver.  I might have pride if I succeeded in some plan, but there is fear lurking around the next corner about ‘what happens if I blow it next time?’ Or if I don’t get what I want and can’t conjure it up, there are things like depression and defeat to contend with.

I’m pretty good at spotting other people’s golden calves.  I can see them running around with their kids to all kinds of sporting events, or their preoccupation with keeping up with cultural norms.  I’m not so good at spotting my own.  Even if I am, I’m not so good at calling them what they are.    When I first set out in my 20’s after college, I was determined not to own any more things than what I could fit in my car.  I thought people who were tied down to mortgages, jobs and responsibilities were “sell out’s.”  It kept them from being all-in for the Kingdom.

Well, now I’m one of those sell out’s.  I stand on the edge of breaking away from it, contemplating an early retirement to go back to my radical lifestyle of my 20’s.  I didn’t know how God was going to provide then, but I knew He was.  I was ‘about my Father’s business,’ and I loved it.  Now I have much more to give up, but so much more to gain.  Is my job and  my position my broken cistern?  Is money my golden calf?  Is the control that the good salary offers, the self sufficiency, the power, and the me-time, standing in the way?

Brad Bigney:  “When you’re craving something other than God, even something good, God takes it very seriously.  In that moment, He’s coming after you.  He’s coming after you for His glory and your own good, because life for us is better without idols.  Life for us is better when we’re delighting in the gospel and living Christ as our highest treasure.  Life for us is better when we’re focused on God and free from idols.” p. 26

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139: 23-24