Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Idol Factory

I was wondering recently how it was possible that the Israelites turned from God at the foot of Mt. Sinai while Moses was receiving the 10 commandments. After all they had seen they still thought a golden statue would meet their spiritual needs. We look back and say, "How foolish! A piece of shiny metal can't compare with the Most High God."

The Israelite reply would have been simple. "At least we can see the golden calf."

Why is that rebuttal still so powerful thousands of years later? Combining the innate human desire to worship with our preference for anything simple, tangible, and measurable is a deadly recipe. This universal mindset caused John Calvin to quip, "The human heart is a factory of idols."

God seemed "up there" while the golden calf or a gold medal or a gold ring is right in front of me. The roar of the crowd for the athlete, the bi-weekly paycheck for the bread winner, and the grateful words for the pastor are predictable and immediate while the ultimate approval of the Lord requires faith and patience.

What is the believer to do? Pray that the Lord would replace "all the vain things that charm me most" with himself. Praying to God is taking a huge step away from the immediate gratification offered by idols.

It also helps to remember the inadequacy of idols in comparison with the complete sufficiency of Christ. Can a paycheck really give you what you desire? Can a vacation truly take your burdens upon itself? Theologian Cornelius Plantinga Jr. rightly observes that the problem with idols is that they can't support the weight we place on them. The marketing department of the idol factory makes promises that the production department can't possibly deliver on. However, Christ's lofty promises have been fulfilled.

"[The idolator's] end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself." - Philippians 3:19-21
To believe in Christ is to replace destruction and shame with transformation and glory. What an offer! What a Savior!


For an excellent sermon on this topic listen to Neil Plantinga's message on Exodus 32.

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