Created things cannot provide transcendent answers

Idols are powerless to deliver.  Ancient idols, created by craftsmen, were powerless to save, deliver or strengthen – the same is true of our modern, shiny, sophisticated idols.   Just as God formed us, so do craftsmen form idols – but these creators are human: they tire, get sick, get hungry & thirsty.  All idols are created out of created things that God gave mankind.  They used the wood to make a fire to bake their bread and then used what was left to fashion a “god” and then bow down and worship it, saying “deliver me!”  They cannot see that this is a created thing that they are looking for transcendence from.  Created things cannot provide transcendent answers.  On top of that, God has blinded them and shut up their hearts so that they cannot see the futility of their pursuit.
What do you delight in?  What do you look to for answers, satisfaction, identity, fulfillment?  These are your idols.  The heart will always worship something – either God or an idol.  Many times these are good things that we turn in to god things; things like marriage, family, faithful service, hard work or kid’s activities.  We teach our children what is worthy of worship and what they should seek to establish their true identity in life by what we will really trust in and what we really point them to – it may be athletics, relationships, morality, education or financial independence.  All of these things are good, but they are not designed to be our ultimate pursuit; they cannot hold the weight of our worship.  What “gospel” are you preaching to yourself and your children?  What do you say is worth all of your time, energy and pursuit?  What is your life ordered around?  This is what you really worship.  Is Jesus just one of many gods in your life?

All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.
The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!
They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”” (Isaiah 44:9–20 ESV).

This God is BIG

God made them, God chose them, God will be their deliverer.  This God is BIG.  The size and scope of the Almighty is beyond our comprehension.  God provides satiation for our souls – like the dry parched ground of the desert soaks up water.  His people will be enthusiastic about Him, His grace and His people.  God reminds His people that He alone is God, unchallenged, unequaled.  There is none like Him – He is unequaled, He is faithful through the ages.  It seems that in the midst of oppression and difficulty God knows that we don’t need a “pull yourself up by your boot straps” talk or “dig deep, take the hill” speech.  God proclaims His majesty and might instead of focusing on our abilities and responsibilities.  Our courage and encouragement is not found in our abilities, strength or savvy, but in the might of the Almighty whom has set His affections upon us and called us His children.  Once you grasp this, you will be FREE.

““But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”” (Isaiah 44:1–5 ESV)

Community of Grace or Community of Performance

Try these diagnostic tests: Communities of Performance

  • The leaders appear to have it all figured out
  • The community appears respectable
  • Meetings must be a polished performance
  • Failure is devastating, because identity is found in ministry
  • Actions are driven by duty
  • Conflict is suppressed or ignored
  • The focus is on orthodox behavior (letting people think they have it all figured out)

Communities of Grace

  • The leaders are vulnerable
  • The community is messy
  • Meetings are just one part of community life
  • Failure is disappointing but not devastating, because identity is found in Christ
  • Actions are driven by joy
  • Conflict is addressed in the open
  • The focus is on the affections of the heart (with a strong view of sin and grace)

In performance-oriented churches, people pretend to be okay because their standing within the church depends on it. But this is the opposite of grace. Grace acknowledges that we’re all sinners, all messed up, all struggling. And grace also affirms that in Christ we all belong, all make the grade, all are welcome.

Read more here

The anchoring effect of rightly placed identity

“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”” (Isaiah 43:1–7 ESV)

Who is this God?  The Creator; the One who formed us and has now set His affection upon us.  He redeems us – He has calls us by name, we are His.  Our identity does not come from our own abilities or performance – or lack there of – our identity comes from being a child of the Creator who gives us His grace!  It is not because we are awesome or do great things, quite the opposite!  Because of the great love of God for His people and zeal to glorify His name, God goes to great lengths to save His people – even raising up Pharaoh to deliver them from his oppressive reign.  Even in the most difficult of seasons, God is with His people – we are never alone.  The real anchoring effect of having our identity found in being a child of God is that we don’t have to perform flawlessly – Jesus already performed flawlessly on our behalf!

Our biggest problems are not outside of us

Our biggest problems are not on the outside of us (wife, economy, government, temptations).  We normally address these problems by saying that we need to work harder, do more, be more disciplined – look inside; this is Christianized self-help/self-esteem.  The gospel says that the greatest problem is on the inside and the solution is on the outside.  This was the mistake of the Jews in the first century.  They thought that the Romans – not sinful hearts – was the real problem.  Our biggest problem is the sin that lives in our hearts and our only solution is to look to the finished work of Christ.  Nothing in the bible tells us to fix our eyes on us and our own efforts.  The bible (Hebrews 12:1-2) tells us to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith; we look up and out to the finished work of Christ.  Transformation comes from outside of us.

But God, being rich in mercy, made us alive

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1–10 ESV)

The bible clearly tells us that we are dead.  The idea of being terminally ill has become a popular one, but it is not biblical.  When we realize that we had no contribution in our salvation, we become overwhelmed with gratitude and awe that God would call some one like us out of darkness and in to light.  When we understand that God’s radical, unconditional grace, one way love then we are moved to worship.  All of the acceptance and approval that we all long for we now have in Christ, it frees us to stop pretending, remove our mask and walk freely.  “THANKS BE TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.”  At the point at which we recognize our deep need (oh wretched man that I am) is the point at which the gospel becomes real and impact-full.

The truth is that God isn’t concerned with any kind of obedience; he’s concerned with a certain kind of obedience

“The truth is that God isn’t concerned with any kind of obedience; he’s concerned with a certain kind of obedience. What motivates our obedience determines whether or not it is a sacrifice of praise … If any kind of obedience, regardless of what motivates it, is what God is after, he would have showcased the Pharisees and exhorted all of us to follow their lead, to imitate them. But he didn’t … External righteousness is something we can all achieve on our own with a little self-discipline and a lot of self-righteousness. But Jesus wants us to see that regardless of how well we think we’re doing or how righteous we think we’re becoming, when “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” becomes the standard and not “how much I’ve improved over the years”, we realize that we’re a lot worse than we fancy ourselves to be–that unrighteousness is inescapable, that “even the best things we do have something in them to be pardoned … Only when our understanding of righteousness “exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees” and goes beyond outer conduct, will we see the  impossibility of achieving our own righteousness and the necessity of receiving Christ’s righteousness. There is nothing that sinners hate more than to be told that there’s nothing they can do, that everything has been taken out of their hands, that no matter how hard they try, their best is never good enough. And yet, we’ll never be free until we give up fighting for a righteousness we can claim as our own.”

-Tullian Tchividjian, read more here