Idolatry Doesn’t Fix Idolatry

milada-vigerova-45368I’m trying to learn from Moses.

My heart is full with all of the unrest in our nation. More than anything my heart is pained by the way I see believers responding to one another. I’m grieved that our unity so often is found in things other than Christ.

After the unrest in Charlottesville over the weekend President Trump said, ““Above all, we must remember this truth, no matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first.” I don’t expect the President of the United States to say anything different. But I am a bit shocked when I see Christian’s giving a hearty ‘amen’ to this sentiment.

And this is the problem for us as believers. We cannot biblically sign on to this. Scripture tells us that our primary citizenship is in heaven. We are followers of Jesus first, not Americans. To be anything other than “Jesus first” is idolatry. The refusal to say “Rome first” is what got many of the early Christians beheaded.

But I also believe President Trump is absolutely correct in his understanding of how unity happens. He is correct in saying that the fundamental reason for our disunity is that we are placing other things above our shared identity as Americans. When you move away from that you will have nothing but civil unrest.

This is why I say only the gospel can fix what is happening in our nation. And I don’t mean a Republican gospel or a Democratic gospel. I mean the unfettered gospel of Jesus which unites tax collectors and zealots. Idolatry doesn’t fix idolatry. The vision of America, as beautiful as it is, pales in comparison to the vision of the kingdom of God. The vision of America doesn’t hold the power that the risen Christ holds. It’s not powerful enough to unite us.

But this is why I’m saddened. I see many professing believers selling this birthright for a pot of political stew. We hold more in common with those on the same political aisle than we do our brother or sister in Christ who sees social issues different than we do. We look at things first through the lens of an elephant or a donkey instead of a disciple of Jesus. We fight to protect heritage or racial identity before we fight for our brother and sister who is different than us.

The typical response to a post like this is to say, “well, what about…” This just proves my point. It seems we’ve lost the ability to assess ourselves in light of the gospel instead of a party label. And we keeping screaming at each other. We keep taking shots at our brothers and sisters in Christ and calling into question their fundamental identity simply because they don’t share our political identity. I understand that for the world, for those who aren’t followers of Jesus, their identity has to be fixed in something else. But believers must follow a different path.

I’m not calling for some sort of amorphic Christianity where everybody gets along and sings “kumbaya” but doesn’t have firm ground to stand upon. There are issues of truth and answers to social issues clearly defined in Scripture. It is possible to be on a different side than Jesus—and in those instances we are placing ourselves outside of our unity in Christ.

Switching idols doesn’t fix white supremacy. Switching idols doesn’t fix abortion. Switching idols doesn’t fix racial tension. Only Jesus heals.

And so I’m trying to learn from Moses. He’s the guy who stepped away from his privileged status as an Egyptian to identify with the suffering and the hurting Israelites. He stepped on the same well-trodden path that our Savior walked. You cannot expect to walk down this path without getting it from both sides. You cannot expect to identify with the persecuted and not get persecuted yourself. So I’m praying for the courage to continue on the path of a suffering Savior.

And I’m also trying to learn from Moses what not to do. Once his eyes were opened to the plight of the Israelites, and once he made that leap, he took matters into his own hands. He killed an Egyptian and tried mediating between a couple Israelites. He made himself prince/judge. This ended with him being exiled for about 40 years. But Exodus 2 ends with the Israelites praying and God responding to their plight.

Prayer does what my pen and pulpit cannot.

There is a time to pick up my pen and to passionately persuade from the pulpit. But that time is always after prayer. Only the gospel can heal. One heart at a time. That’s not a dodging action. That’s recognizing our foundation and then getting to work to see the kingdom of God consistently lived out.

Idolatry doesn’t fix idolatry. That includes me.

Read This! 08.15.17

500 Years On: Let’s End the Sale of Self Indulgences

This is a hard-hitting piece. I can’t say that I agree with all of it, but there is enough in here that we need to consider.

Reading God’s Providence

This is helpful.

6 Questions You Should Be Asking Those You Lead

All of these questions are pretty important. I don’t always do a good job of asking them.

4 Reasons to Teach Church History to Teens

I totally agree with this. I think everyone benefits from learning history.

Calling, Burdens, and Being Crushed By Facebook

There is a ton of wisdom in this. This is one of the biggest dangers of social media.

Discerning Your Child’s Spiritual State

This is so difficult to do as a parent…how much more difficult as a pastor trying to discern the spiritual state of young kids?

My Child Doesn’t Love Me

So long as you don’t take from this and attitude which says, “If my child doesn’t love me it’s always my fault”, then this is a good and helpful article.

Does God Like Me?

This is a question I struggled with as a new Christian.

I employ many of these strategies:

A Review of The Imperfect Disciple By @JaredCWilson

The well meaning mentor asks, “How much have you been reading your Bible?”

You know the response already don’t you? “Not enough,” says the dejected mentee. It’s the same way with almost every spiritual discipline. We are never doing enough to show our dedication for Christ. As a result, there is a whole niche market within Christian publishing that I would term the guilt market.

The guilt market is filled with books and studies which promise to keep us from being such failures in our walk with Christ. If we adopt their Bible study method we will finally be the Bible reading rock-stars we hope to be. Following their prayer method will revolutionize our walk with God. And what cowardly schmuck doesn’t want to read a study which will finally help him to share Jesus with a coworker without wetting his pants?

Jared Wilson’s latest book, The Imperfect Disciple, is thankfully not in the guilt market. In fact, I believe it’s written to speak into such a market of discipleship books. I am thankful for this. I’m thankful for Jared’s relentless work of putting the gospel of Jesus in front of our faces.

I picked up this book in the discipleship section of our Christian bookstore and I’m thankful it was placed there. As I said, I think it’s industry busting. It doesn’t fit. There aren’t chapters on how to be better at Bible study or prayer or any of those things. But oddly enough I think reading through this book will help me in each of these areas.

Each chapter of the book stands on it’s own. The chapters in the book could have been jumbled up and I don’t think it would have impacted the flow or feel of the book. Every chapter takes a different aspect of the Christian life and shows how Christ fulfills what we lack. It’s the typical, and wonderful, writing style of Jared Wilson. He has a wonderful sense of humor and realism that is refreshing. It feels conversation with a friend who loves Jesus and is doing everything he can to consistently point to the sufficiency of Christ.

But this type of pastoral writing is, in my opinion, the most difficult to review. It’s like the guy who says, “you know I can’t remember much about that sermon but it was life-changing”. For us pastors and writers who spend so much time thinking about specific words and phrases such a thing can be insulting. But I think it’s actually a high-compliment. It’s saying that we were so tracking with what was written and said that we cannot put our hat on one particular phrase or illustration. It was just life shaping. That is how Jared’s book was for me. I can go back through it and find a few of the many underlines and remember what it was like reading.

More than anything reading the book had a pastoral and calming effect on my soul. Maybe it has to do with this particular season in my life, but my favorite chapter was The Revolution Will Not Be Instagrammed. I so badly want to live in community like this. But this chapter convicted me that I can try to “instagram” my life and live in pretense. It’s hard as a pastor not to wish dream. It’s also hard to just be a disciple. But I’m so hungry for this:

A community that is willing to get honest about its sins and its weaknesses and its brokenness finds the abundance of grace it has been longing for. (134)

How can a book be so freeing and frustrating at the same time? It’s like being told of an amazing banquet that you are invited to, but being attached to a fetter that gets you just a few inches away from sitting at the table. This is the challenge. Am I going to keep a comfortable fetter or realize that the chain has already been broken? Am I going to live in the freedom of Christ or rest in the familiarity of performance?

I’d encourage anyone to read this great book. If you are a familiar with Jared Wilson’s writing and blogging then you know what you are getting. You will not be disappointed. If you aren’t familiar then if you are looking for a book written for blockheads who can’t seem to follow Jesus as awesomely as we should, then this book is for you.

I pray this book is life-shaping for those who read it. I also pray it’s industry transforming and that we see many more discipleship books written in this mold.

You can buy it here.

Read This! 08.10.17

Banner of Truth Turns 60

I’m very appreciative of this publishing company.

Control Your Sexuality

Strong and needed words from Tim Challies.

The One Place Where All Leadership Principles Fall Apart

“Nothing replaces presence.” This is so true.

5 Ministry Dilemmas Caused by Insecurity

I’ve experienced some of these.

An Open Letter to Steve Gaines

I’m in on this one.

Biblical Counseling Resources

This is a helpful compilation.

Leadership Wisdom From Ignatius of Loyola

I love it when Dr. Jones fines gems in church history like this one.

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident

Man, always so encouraged by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Piper answers a question that many ask about whether or not hell is an overreaction to sin: