Idol destruction does not take place by slavishly and morbidly looking to yourself and your surrender of these idols. Yet, it is fundamentally God that does battle with our idols. He does destroy them. One of the means that God uses to destroy our idols is a Spirit-directed exposing of our idols and a Spirit-inspired exaltation of all that is ours in Christ. That sounds good but what does that look like practically?
A Couple Quotes Before the Practical
Thomas Chalmers once said, “The true way to facilitate self-examination is to look believingly outwardly.” Robert Murray McCheyne picked this up and quipped his famous saying:
“Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely . . . . Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love. And repose in his almighty arms.”
For every look at self take 10 looks to Christ. Yes, this is the way to destroy idols. Yes, this is the way to captivate our affections and destroy our idols. To believingly look outward makes idols melt like wax against the radiant beauty of the Lord Jesus. What then does it look like to “take 10 looks to Christ”? What does exposing idols look like? What does it mean to exalt the fullness of Christ?
I had a somewhat rough day at the office. It was one of those days when my list of “to-do’s” grew instead of shrunk. Every time I would begin a project and try to complete something that I need to get done the phone would ring and another something was added to my list of things to do.
Though my day seemed like I moved backwards, 5:00 still rolls around and my wife and kids are expecting me home for dinner. All of the burdens of the day are still on my back but I know that I need to shake them off so that I am home when I’m at home. I want to be emotionally and spiritually present whenever I am physically present. That is something that I have been working on.
I pull into the driveway and I am immediately hit with crying children and a frazzled wife. Apparently I am not the only one that has had a difficult day. It becomes obvious to me fairly early on that my hopes of a fun-filled and stress-free evening is dashed. My angelic children have been overtaken by what appears to be a legion of demons—or at least that is what it seems like to a discouraged daddy.
What do I do? I’m empty. I’m burned out. I need to re-energize. I really NEED a stress-free evening. That isn’t happening. Relaxing will not be an option on this evening. Perhaps around 11:30 I can catch a few relaxing moments before I enter into restless sleep and then begin to play catch-up again tomorrow.
Truth be told I’m angry. I’m angry that things are so busy, I’m angry that I can’t relax like I want to. I’m angry that my imaginary night has been hi-jacked by reality. I try to hide my anger. I try to play the role of super dad and super husband but I just hit a wall. My anger shows. I’m sharp with the kids. I’m distant from my wife. All I’m really thinking about are those 15 minutes of relaxation at sometime around 11:30.
Of course that is an imaginary situation. I hear that some husbands and fathers can struggle with those types of things. Not me. I’m a pastor, seminary student, writer, and all around super Christian. But for your sake I’ll imagine that I actually do struggle with the above scenario and that it has played out more than once in my life.
The above scenario is an idolatry problem. It’s a worship problem. If I want to see my anger repented of, healed, corrected, and ultimately changed then I need to get real with what is causing the anger. It is suicidal idolatry. A false god has sold me a lie and I bought it. Hook. Line. Sinker. I swallowed the whole stupid thing.
What happened that night? What was really going on in my heart? I had an idol of comfort and control. I wanted to be in charge of my day. I want things easy. I want to be a good parent and a good husband. But mostly I want those things to be easy.
Remember our task in idol destruction is to expose the emptiness of idols and to exalt His fullness at their expense. So I do that by getting real with what this idol is promising. I write down it’s marketing pitch.
Comfort: You work hard, Mike. You are tired and you are exhausted. You have a right to relax when you come home. You need to be re-energized and we know that the best way for you do that is to disengage and just chill out. If people cannot understand that they are working against you and the plan of God for your life. You have every right to be righteously angry and indignant that circumstances are ruining the awesome plans that God has for you.
The Gospel: Jesus has already accomplished everything that you need. Your to-do list doesn’t matter as much to God as His DONE list. You have been given the Holy Spirit. You have everything you need for life and godliness. He will re-energize you. Yes, God has given you the gift of sleep. But He is also Lord of your circumstances. There is not one square inch of your life that does not belong to Him. And there is not one square inch of your life that He is not in the process of redeeming and transforming for your joy and His glory. Those things that you think are “ruining” God’s plan for you actually ARE God’s plan for you. Trust Him—He is radically dedicated to your joy in Him.
Suddenly the fleeting pleasures of a comfortable night of disengaging in front of a television screen do not seem as appealing. Christ is calling me to more deep and lasting joy than a “comfortable night”. Not only this but He has promised and provided for me the power to be “re-energized” by the very things that I thought were standing in my way of joy. My grouchy kids (and this grouchy dad) aren’t hurdles to be leapt over on the path to my couch. These are opportunities to see grace shine and to delight in the Savior.
All I did in the above scenario is take a look at myself and discover that I do fall short, I am prone to anger, I do believe stupid promises of false comfort, and I mess up as a husband and daddy. But I feast upon and camp out under the promises of Christ on my behalf. I take one look at my sin—I’m not surprised by it—and I abhor it. But rather than trying to get rid of it for the sake of having a relationship with Jesus I preach the gospel to myself; I expose the emptiness of the idol next to the unblushing promises that are mine in Christ Jesus.
There is still one amazing Spurgeon quote and a little summary…