Tag Archives: Timothy Keller

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.

————————————

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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Worship Idols

21 Apr

Our church is reading Counterfeit Gods, by Timothy Keller.  His writing is very easy to read, and the stories he uses are engaging.  His razor-sharp logic, however, is a deftly-shot arrow that found its mark deep in my heart.

The definition of an idol, according to Keller is: “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.”

Every specialized group of people has its own particular list of insidious idols.  For those of us who lead others in worshiping God, what are ours?  That last phrase in the quote above is especially troubling to me.  Immediately, I think of my identity – only God can be the true source of my identity– not my ability to sing, not my position on the worship team, not what the pastor thinks of me, not the latest song I wrote, not how clever or creative I am.  Only God.

“An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel as if my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’  There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.”

May it never be!

How can the very thing God has called me to do be an idol?  After thinking about it from another angle, I see that this makes perfect sense.  The one who is gifted in business is blinded to her fixation with the bottom line or her workaholism.  The one who went into politics to serve people denies he is now caught up in having power over them.  The plank is always in another’s eye, not mine.  Especially since leading worship is a holy calling and above more worldly pursuits.

But we are no different.  Our holy calling can also become our idol.  And maybe worshiping worship is the most heinous idol.  After all, our calling is to worship God.  We should know better.

To whom much is given (the ability and privilege of leading others in worshiping God); much is demanded (the responsibility of knowing Who we worship and what we should not worship).

“We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.”

Throughout the book Keller emphasizes that the only way to get rid of an idol is by calling it sin and replacing it with a deep love for Christ.

God made us to be worshipers.  We cannot not worship – but we get to choose what we worship.

————

Heart check for Sunday–

What are my idols?

Name them.  Confess them.

Memorize a verse that reminds me to dethrone the golden calf and bow before the one who holds my life in His hands.

Tomorrow, and always, I choose to worship you, Lord.

Quotes from Counterfeit Gods are from the Introduction, pp. xix-xx

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