Our Hearts as Idol Factories

September 6, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Depravity, Greek Gods, Image of God, Meditations, Sin, Ten Commandments, Trinity, Worship

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Human beings are intrinsically religious creatures. We all have a sensus divinitatis, a sense of the divine, which God Himself has planted within us. However, because of our rebellion against God, we all likewise have a bent away from the Living God. We are inclined toward idolatry; our hearts are, in the words of John Calvin, an idol factory. And it is this work of the flesh that we focus upon in Paul’s list today. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… idolatry.”

Idolatry is the worship of false gods or the worship of the true god through physical images. Idolatry has a bewitching power, enslaving nations and regularly tempting the people of God. So the people of Israel constructed the golden calf in the wilderness. Gideon had to cut down the altar of Baal which Israel had erected in his hometown. Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel and filled Israel with the worship of the Baals and Ashtoreths such that Elijah believed he alone remained faithful. Our fathers regularly turned to idols and so brought on themselves the wrath and judgment of God.

This tendency toward idolatry did not cease with Christ’s incarnation. Christians have regularly turned away from the Triune God to some lesser deity. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Ebionites taught that the Eternal Son of God was just a man while the Docetists taught that He was not man at all. In the great Trinitarian controversies of the 3rd and 4th centuries that resulted in the crafting of the Nicene Creed, the Arians taught that Jesus was not divine but some lesser being. In the 18th and 19th centuries, such idolatries multiplied. The Unitarians insisted that the Eternal Son was just a great moral teacher and example; the Jehovah’s Witnesses rescucitated the idolatry of Arius; the Mormons taught that the Eternal Son of God was some perverse offspring of a carnal union between deity and humanity.

Church history, in other words, illustrates that Paul’s warning against idolatry is necessary. The human heart bends toward idolatry. And so Paul warned the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14). We must remain ever faithful to the Triune God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

One of the chief traps that has ensnared God’s people in idolatry has been intermarriage with idolaters. God warned the people of Israel:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you… You shall make no covenant with them nor… shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods…” (Dt 7:1-4)

Despite this warning, the Israelites regularly intermarried with their pagan neighbors and fell into idolatry. Nehemiah reminded our fathers, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God… Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin” (Neh 13:25-26).

So if you are single and would like to be married – listen to the voice of the Lord – you may not marry a non-Christian! To do so is to court temptation and put yourself in danger of God’s wrath and judgment. As Paul reminded the Corinthians:

14Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God… (2 Cor 6:14–16) 

Reminded that God is jealous the affections of His people and would have us to avoid the worship of other gods, let us acknowledge that we and our father have often turned away from God to idols. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Idolatry

September 1, 2019 in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Greek Gods, Human Condition, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Sovereignty of God, Truth

Romans 1:18–23 (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Several weeks ago we began a study of Romans 1. Paul declares that when peoples reject the Living God, they descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, the fruit of unbelief is barbarism whereas the fruit of faith is civilization.

Having discussed unbelief itself, we proceed to idolatry. Paul writes that our unbelief degenerates into idolatry – unbelieving men “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In other words, Paul insists that idolatry is an affliction of our minds and of our hearts. First, he says that men became futile in their thoughts. Idolatry is a problem of the mind. The idolater exchanges “the glory of the incorruptible God” for “an image made like corruptible man”; he exchanges the solid foundation of rationality for no foundation at all. You see, if there is an incorruptible God, a God who exists over and above all things, who has created all and who is Himself the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, then the world as we know it and experience it makes sense. It makes sense that there are mathematical formulas, moral laws, and intricate designs. The world and all things in it reflect the grandeur of God.

But if there is no such God, if the idolaters are right and the gods are just part of the world or if the gods don’t really exist at all and we’re just alone in the world, then there is no foundation for reason and rationality. For example, materialists declare that only physical properties are real, that there are no spiritual entities, no universal truths; but then they set out to justify their contentions using mathematical formulas and principles. Really, where is the material of which mathematics is made? Darwinists claim that humans are just sophisticated animals and yet insist that we have a moral obligation to care for the planet. Really, where did morals come from? Relativists claim that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and yet turn away in revulsion from rotting flesh. Really, why isn’t rotting flesh lovely? Idolatry is a problem is the mind; it cannot provide a foundation for truth, goodness, and beauty.

But idolatry is also a problem of the heart. Paul writes that “their foolish hearts were darkened.” Our loves and desires are corrupted such that we call truth, error, we call good, evil, and we call beauty, ugliness. So John Calvin was right to remark that the human heart is an idol factory. We erect false gods so that we can cling to our unbelief, because to acknowledge the true God would be to confront the truth about ourselves and our need for a Savior, a Savior who can renew our hearts and teach us to love what is true, good, and beautiful again.

Idolatry, therefore, is a problem of the mind and a problem of the heart. But hear the Word of God: there is a source of truth, goodness, and beauty. That Source is the Eternal Word of God who took on human flesh and dwelt among us. Why is the world rational, why does it reflect eternal mathematical principles, why do we find the Fibonacci Sequence again and again and again? Because all things were made by the Eternal Logos and reflect His genius. Why do men long for justice, complain about unfairness, and condemn the dictator who butchers his people? Because in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. Why do we delight to catch a glimpse of the Western Tanager, to sit and watch a sunset, and to stair into the starry heavens? Because He is glorious and full of grace and truth.

So what of you? Are you still clinging to your irrational and dark idolatry? Then hear the voice of Christ. Turn from your sin and turn in faith to the Living God. Reminded that as humans, we are so prone to turn from God to idols, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins to Him. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Man as Male and Female – Repost

January 2, 2018 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Greek Gods, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Truth

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV)
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Some of you may recall studying Plato’s doctrine of the forms when you were a student. For Plato the world we see about us, the world that we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell is only a dim reflection of the truly significant world, the world of the forms. For example, corresponding to the imperfect circles that we draw in this world is an ideal circle in the world of the forms. The closer our circles get to that form, the nearer perfection they also get.

The ways in which Plato’s idea of the forms impacted Greek civilization are myriad, some good and some bad. In the bad category is the way in which it impacted the Greek perception of humanity. For you see, there is only one perfect form for the myriad objects in the world. There is one perfect circle to which all our circles approximate. There is one perfect chair, one perfect triangle, one perfect human. And it is this latter observation that got things going the wrong way. For the Greeks almost uniformly insisted that the human form was male – and the closer one gets to the form, the closer one gets to perfection.

The implications of this for Greek practice were many. First, the Greek acceptance of the perversion of sodomy and homosexuality was born out of this mistaken notion. After all, if the perfect form is male then why shouldn’t one male be attracted to the perfect form of another?

Second, women were degraded and viewed as a lesser form of human since they were further from the form. And the more like men women became the more human they became. So the legends of the Amazonians were spread by men who wanted women to be more like men.

Notice the contrast between this ancient Greek fable, with its exaltation of perversion and denigration of women, and the revelation of God in Genesis. Here in Genesis we are told that God made man in His image, according to His likeness. But lest we start traveling down the Platonic sewer pipe, Moses informs us that by man he means male and female together. God created man, male and female, in His image after His likeness. It is not the male who is the image of God; nor is it the female who is the image of God; rather it is male and female together – unity and diversity in harmony – who bear the image of God.

So what does this mean? First, men, it means that the women whom God has placed in our lives – wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, etc. – have been put there to teach us about Him. They, in company with us, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as women. God created them to be women and He intends to teach us about Himself through the women in our lives. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Second, women, it means that the men whom God has placed in your lives – husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends, etc. – have been put there to teach you about Him. They, in company with you, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as men. God created us to be men and He intends to teach you about Himself through the men in your lives. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Reminded that we often fail to learn the lessons that we are supposed to learn from the opposite sex, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

An “Ungodly” Match: The Marriage of Zeus & Hera

February 12, 2008 in Greek Gods, Marriage, St. Anne's

Scripture tells us that the pattern for all marriages is the covenantal union between Christ and the Church. In Ephesians 5, Paul grounds his exhortations to husbands and wives upon this covenantal union. The Christian approach to marriage is, therefore, theological in nature; it is based upon our understanding of Christ and His mercy toward His people.

Enter the gods of the Greeks as portrayed by Homer in The Iliad. Rarely respectable, often pitiable, the gods routinely offend us with their licentiousness, shock us with their callousness, disgust us with their fickleness, and sicken us with their childishness. And the more powerful the god, the more revolting the scene becomes. Nowhere is this more evident than in the “ungodly” marriage of Zeus and Hera, king and queen of the gods.

The marriage of Zeus and Hera is a case study of instability, unrighteousness, and adultery. It seems that, in Platonic irony, the marital problems among men are patterned after the “form” found in Zeus and Hera! After comparing their marriage to Paul’s admonitions to wives and husbands in Ephesians 5, it is evident that Zeus and Hera fail to measure up to the marital mandate given. They demonstrate in both their attitudes and behavior the paucity of their character and the repulsiveness of their hearts.

The headship of husbands is asserted and assumed in Paul’s admonitions. He recognizes that the husband is the head of the wife; hence, the husband is responsible for the wife. Scripture’s vision of this responsibility is driven by Jesus’ teaching on leadership. The true leader is the one who serves. Consequently, the husband is to give himself, in love, for the benefit of his wife. He is responsible to promote her growth in holiness; to nourish and cherish his wife as he does his own body. He is not to take advantage of his wife’s weakness, but is to respect this weakness and make allowance for it. Only in so doing will the marriage be blest.

In addition to being a servant, the husband is to manifest covenant loyalty. Just as Christ is faithful to his bride, the Church, so too Christian men are to be faithful to their wives. When a husband fails to keep covenant with his wife, he teaches that God is not a covenant keeping God, and this is blasphemy.

Zeus manifests none of these traits of a godly husband. First, Zeus never serves Hera. He lectures, he commands, he berates, he threatens; but never does he serve. Never does she receive a soft word from him; never does she receive from his hand acts of love and kindness. He treats her with contempt and her treatment of him is a fitting rejoinder to his pattern of leadership.

Second, Zeus takes advantage of Hera’s weaknesses, both emotionally and physically. Emotionally, Hera is understandably suspicious of Zeus and his dealings with other women, both of gods and men. Zeus recognizes this, but allows it only to embitter him the more firmly against her, rather than move him to repent and abandon his adulterous liaisons. In addition, Zeus takes advantage of his position to taunt Hera and goad her into some outburst. Physically, Zeus often threatens to beat Hera and thus drives her to “submission,” even boasting of the way in which he had cruelly tortured her on one occasion. Quite the loving husband!

Third, Zeus breaks covenant with his wife and even boasts of his immorality. When in the height of his lustful desire for his wife, Zeus proceeds to recount for us, and for her, numerous adulterous affairs he had engaged in. This must have warmed Hera’s heart! What we find is that Zeus’ marital infidelity manifests itself in his treatment of all relationships–he is not a covenant keeping god; he betrays those who most rely upon him. While himself the judge of deception, he openly deceives those who trust in him. Zeus’ failure to keep covenant with his wife is symptomatic of his treacherous character.

Zeus’ failure as a husband is well matched by Hera’s failure as a wife. Hera is anything but submissive and respectful. She is deeply suspicious of Zeus and questions him on his behavior. She finds it difficult to contain her anger and often answers back to Zeus. She uses her womanly charms to seduce and deceive Zeus, hardly the actions of a virtuous maid in whom the heart of her husband trusts. She despises Zeus, is frightened by him, and yet defies him in his weaker moments, rather than seeking to win his heart. Hera’s deviousness matches Zeus’ haughtiness; together they make a miserable couple.

Zeus and Hera epitomize a marriage gone bad. The seed of their hatred and contempt for one another having been sown, it produces destructive fruit in their relationship. Zeus’ infidelity breeds Hera’s suspiciousness which breeds Zeus’ bitterness which breeds Hera’s hatred, ad nauseum.

Thankfully, the pattern set before us in Scripture is much more beautiful, harmonious and alluring. It is one of joyful unity, complementary diversity, mutual serenity, unfathomable mystery. It is the relationship between Christ and the Church.