A couple of questions

How do you know if you have made something into an idol instead of just being really passionate for/about it?

It’s a good question, and a friend asked it to me about a month ago.

I’d been thinking about idols in my life for about a month prior, which stemmed from another conversation with two other friends.

I was reminded in that conversation that God is a jealous God. I once heard Oprah say something along the lines that she didn’t want to serve a god who was jealous of her. That is decidedly not what God is saying to us. He is not jealous of us but for us. He wants all of our hearts, not half or three-quarters. All. of. it. He is to be our first love and our greatest affections are to be for Him. And if we ever give something else that love and affection that He only deserves, we should never doubt that He will remind us of it. (For an example, please see the entirety of  Israel’s history in the Old Testament.)

I go back to the first question…had I made this thing in my life an idol or was I just passionate about it, as Jesus was passionate over Jerusalem?

In all honesty (and as you can probably guess) I had made it an idol. But how did I know?  Well, first, people I loved and respected and who always, always, always point me to the gospel, spoke truth in love to me on the issue. They listened to me speak about said thing and then spoke wisdom into the situation, encouraging me to seek the Lord about it, which leads me to the second thing I did to discern whether or not the thing had become an idol. It perhaps sounds cliché, but I prayed about it. And in the end, I realized that the thing was receiving more affection than God.

But again, how did I know that? In this case, when I was asked to possibly give up the thing I said “No.” And not a calm, nice kinda “no”. It was a screaming, kicking kinda “no.” And it was really loud. I said “No” for months until my friends lovingly pointed out my sin to me.

I was so close-fisted that I wasn’t even open to God’s leading or instruction. I put my desires and wants above God but also above the welfare of my family. I was holding on really tightly and I refused, absolutely refused, to open my hand. We have a saying where I come from that says, “She’s as stubborn as a stick in the mud.”

Yes, that would be me…a stick…stuck in the nasty, smelly, yucky mud of sinfulness that was idol worship.

The point of this whole thing is two-fold:

  1. When we are close-fisted with things we better start asking if we have made them into idols.
  2. My repentance and confession and therefore better relationship with Jesus would not have happened had my friends not lovingly spoke truth and wisdom into the situation. The keys to this are LOVINGLY and TRUTH. Nobody will hear us if we speak truths unlovingly. At the same time if we say untruths lovingly we haven’t pointed them back to the true gospel.  In order to do both of these things we should look to the founder and perfecter of our faith, Christ Jesus, and follow his example, seeing confrontation as good and necessary. Loving, gospel-centered (and therefore, truthful) confrontation led me to see my close-fistedness with something in my life that is actually a very good thing, realizing I had elevated it to a status more important than God. As a result, after confession and repentance I was able to put it in its correct place.

I end not with the question with which I started but rather, “Who do you have in your life you lovingly point you back to gospel-centered truth?” I hope you have someone, and if you don’t, I hope you will find someone.

 

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Affection, Unity and Love: Things found in the Gospel

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Our summer interns left this week. I don’t think I have written about them this summer. Daniela has been here five weeks and Chelsea came down for three weeks after some time up north. During these last few weeks they have become an interwoven part of our families and it has been hard this week without them here. While I am excited to hear about all the incredible things that await them in the coming months, I am also incredibly sad. Part of me is still expecting the door to ring at 9:00 every morning.

Two weeks ago Tommy Orlando, a pastor from America, and his family were here for a few days. While here, Tommy preached on Acts 20, focusing on verses 36-38.

“And when [Paul] had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”

Tommy’s main point was that there should be great affection between believers. Even if we have nothing in common, nothing that would bring us together under normal circumstances, we have Jesus. Jesus unites us. It may be all we have in common, but it’s the greatest thing we have in common. It binds us together in a way that nothing else can, which is why Jews and Gentiles, slaves and slave-owners could weep together as they saw Paul to his ship, knowing they may never see or hear from him again.

If the Gospel unites us, if it creates deep affection between believers, then why is they so much disunity among us? When I read the things people are writing in light of all the terrible recent events not only in America but around the world, a question presents itself: Where is the Gospel?

Church, we are not told to only love the easy, those who look like us, those who think like us, those in the same socio-economic status as us, those who go to the same type of church as us.We are told to love. Above everything else, love.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”            1 Peter 4:8

How can we expect the world to change when professed Christians do not love each other with the love of God? But how do we define that love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and 1 John 3:16 tell us how.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Jesus is the only person who loved perfectly because he is only the one who could love perfectly. He set the bar high, didn’t he? But if we are to be imitators of Christ, then it means we are to imitate him in all things, not just the things that suit us or the things that are easy. We are to love all people, all the time. How else can the Gospel be seen?

 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.When we take our eyes off the cross, forgetting all that we have been forgiven, and only see the differences, the sin, the ugliness in each other, we can not have a deep affection for one another. If we cannot love one another well, how can we expect to love those outside the circle of brotherhood well?” Luke 6:42-36

We should have a great affections for one another to the point that we suffer, we laugh, we cry, we rejoice, and we grieve with one another. That is not only having great affection for each other but what it means to live in community with one another. Our great affection for one another should trump any wrong suffered. As Tommy said, how can we remember the bloody face of Jesus hanging on the cross for our transgressions, forgiving us, loving us, dying for us and NOT forgive, not have sympathy, not care for other brothers and sisters in Christ? How can we turn our heads and look the other way when they are hurting? The love found in the Gospel compels us to care for them. Even if it is the only thing we have in common.

This affection, this love, that unites us is exactly why it was so hard to say goodbye to two young women I have only know a few short weeks.