Tag Archives: Romans 1:25

Sanitized

24 Aug

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In suburban America we sanitize and nice-ify everything.

Government agencies do a pretty good job cleaning up the rivers that we walk along and boat on. Health departments keep the restaurant kitchens where we eat clean and safe. Stores re-do their facades and interiors so we’ll buy more in their shiny, state-of-the-art, copacetic mercantile. This year’s models are better, prettier, safer, cleaner.

We want our lives to be beautiful, free from baser reality. No ugliness allowed…. even though it’s often just below the surface or in the back room.

We do this in church life, too.

The ugliness of sin can be tamed by renaming: Greed becomes consumerism (essential to building our economy); pride is really having a good self-image (after all, if I don’t assert myself and my rights, who will?) gossip (because we need to pray for him/her) is necessary sharing, born out of concern, not envy.

Never mind that all of these are included in the list of the seven deadly sins.

We spend so much effort covering up these and more! What if we applied the same amount of energy to confessing and repenting?

In Romans 1:21-23 Paul describes what is actually happening when we choose sanitizing instead of confessing sin:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

First, notice that he is speaking to those who knew God and who should have known better– to believers. Next, look at the progression: from wisdom to foolishness; from knowing God, to futile thinking, to darkened hearts. This subtle downward vortex happens in tiny increments until the unthinkable becomes natural and easy: the exchange of the glory of God for something else.

[T]hey exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Rom. 1:25

As I type this, my heart aches – physically – over our apostasy. I am beginning to understand  the deep grief that caused those in the Old Testament to rip their robes at blasphemy.

We know better! The glory of God is like nothing else! Why do we so easily trade it away?

OK. I’m taking an emotional breath. Back to the text. Some believers in Rome had gone back to worshiping images. For most of us that isn’t an issue. We didn’t worship statues of Zeus, Diana, or Mercury.

But what did we worship?

What have we gone back to worshiping?

What have we exchanged for the glory of God?

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READY FOR SUNDAY

Worship leaders and team members we get this, don’t we? We have the privilege of seeing the glory of God transform a room full of believers as they sing with their whole hearts and upturned faces, raising their hands in adoration.

So why do we exchange that for baser realities? Why do we get distracted as we lead others in worship? Why do we wonder if we look OK? If our shirts are pitted out with sweat from the effort of praising under hot lights? If that note was a little sharp? If we’ll get to play the solo we owned at rehearsal, or if the worship leader will forget and blow right by it? Why?

Because we are still to concerned with self and not enough with God. We are exchanging the glory of God for image, pride, and self. When we strip off the sanitized distractions and look at what’s underneath them, the ugliness is unmistakeable. And this is the beginning of repentance, where healing, wholeness, and the glory of God begins again.

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Ya gotta

18 May

“…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

“Ya gotta eat.”

You don’t have a choice.

But you do get to choose where you eat.  So you may as well eat at Rally’s.

I think Rally’s is onto something more significant than burgers and fries.

God created us with choice built into our being, but we don’t have unlimited choice.  We get to choose which, not whether or not.

Let me explain.  We get to choose which food (or where) we eat, but not whether we eat.  We have to eat to stay alive.  How we respond to our parents (even if they died when we were young) is also our choice, but we don’t get to decide whether we have parents or not.  Most of our choices are like that.  We get to choose what or which, but not whether.

The most basic of issue of our existence is no exception– whom we serve.  It’s a given that we WILL serve someone or something, but we do get to choose what or whom.

Bob Dylan sang it:

You may be famous, popular, powerful, rich, hiding, skilled, sought-after…      But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

He broke it down to the most basic decision like Joshua did above: choose to serve the Lord or evil.

God the Father said it first when He gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, and Jesus repeated the idea of love being the underlying motivation for choosing to serve God.  God gave us the prerogative to choose whom we want to serve.  Knowing it’s best for us to serve Him rather than created things, however, He commands us to serve Him.

Our culture, even well-meaning Christians, would like to soften the extremes, and in so doing, obscure the clarity, of this black and white choice.  Their arguments include we can serve other people (if done with the right motivation, this is serving God), serve ourselves (which degenerates into idolatry rather quickly), or just live life taking what comes.

Putting anything or anyone before God is idolatry– even, and maybe, especially, good things like relationships and providing for one’s family.  In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller asserts that idols like these can be cultural, which makes them almost impossible to identify.  “Any dominant cultural ‘Hope’ that is not God himself is a counterfeit god….  When we are completely immersed in a society of people who consider a particular idolatrous attachment normal, it becomes almost impossible to discern it for what it is.” (Chap 6, p.130)  The American Dream is rife with disguised idolatry. 

The world would say that Christians are in bondage to God.  They are correct.  But they are also bound to the things they serve.

I would rather serve the all-powerful Creator God who loves me so much that He did not withhold His precious Son but gave Him up to pay my penalty, than anything or anyone else.  More than my comfort, and more than my reputation.  More than possessions and riches.  More than my own ideas and everything temporal.

Using Keller’s description of a cultural idol, it’s possible that even the church can serve counterfeit gods.  The church is not exempt!  Individually and collectively, those of us who follow Jesus must serve Him only, or we serve counterfeit gods.

This seems like such an easy choice in the black-and-white of my laptop screen.  In my day-to-day life, however, in the mash-up of confused emotions and hidden selfishness, it’s not so easy for me to tell who I am serving.

That’s no excuse, I know.  And so I pray for spiritual clarity.

God expects total surrender– pray continually, in everything give thanks, make the most of every opportunity, guard your heart and mind, trust in Him at all times…

Only God can give me what I need.  Only He is worthy to be served.

As for me, I will serve the Lord.

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Ready for Sunday

On one hand I am sure there are no idols as I worship God and lead others before His throne; on the other I know there are latent idols hidden inside acceptable church behavior– compliments, reputation, work ethic, and perfectionism, as well as clinging to my preferred worship style and practices.

Keller defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

God show me every idol I put before you – as I prepare to lead your people, and while leading them.  Strip me of the gross and ugly sins dressed up in cultural finery until all I see is You.  Everything else is chaff.

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