Quotes from Counterfeit Gods

Most people spend their lives trying to make their heart’s fondest dreams come true. Isn’t that what life is all about, “the pursuit of happiness”? We search endlessly for ways to acquire the things we desire, and we are willing to sacrifice much to achieve them.Read more at location 213

It is because our hearts fashion these desires into idols.Read more at location 232

Paul summarized the history of the human race in one sentence: “They worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imaginations, our heart’s most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God himself.Read more at location 232

Two Jewish philosophers who knew the Scriptures intimately concluded: “The central . . . principle of the Bible [is] the rejection of idolatry.”19 The Bible is therefore filled with story after story depicting the innumerable forms and devastating effects of idol worship.Read more at location 238

Was God just a means to an end? To whom was Abraham ultimately giving his heart?Read more at location 265

Abraham’s affection had become adoration. Previously, Abraham’s meaning in life had been dependent on God’s word. Now it was becoming dependent on Isaac’s love and well-being. The center of Abraham’s life was shifting. God was not saying you cannot love your son, but that you must not turn a loved one into a counterfeit god.Read more at location 278

So when God told the Israelites that the firstborn’s life belonged to him unless ransomed, he was saying in the most vivid way possible in those cultures that every family on earth owed a debt to eternal justice—the debt of sin.Read more at location 301

What Abraham was able to see was that this test was about loving God supremely.Read more at location 335

This doesn’t mean that God was trying to find out if Abraham loved him. The All-seeing God knows the state of every heart. Rather, God was putting Abraham through the furnace, so his love for God could finally “come forth as pure gold.” It is not hard to see why God was using Isaac as the means for this. If God had not intervened, Abraham would have certainly come to love his son more than anything in the world, if he did not already do so. That would have been idolatry, and all idolatry is destructive.Read more at location 339
God’s extremely rough treatment of Abraham was actually merciful. Isaac was a wonderful gift to Abraham, but he was not safe to have and hold until Abraham was willing to put God first.Read more at location 344
Add a note

“My desire for completely successful and happy children is selfish. It’s all about my need to feel worthwhile and valuable. If I really knew God’s love—then I could accept less-than-perfect kids and wouldn’t be crushing them. If God’s love meant more to me than my children, I could love my children less selfishly and more truly.”Read more at location 352
Add a note

Anna could not imagine that God might have a plan for her children’s lives wiser than her own. She had mapped out a perfect life, without failures or disappointments.Read more at location 356
Add a note

People who have never suffered in life have less empathy for others, little knowledge of their own shortcomings and limitations, no endurance in the face of hardship, and unrealistic expectations for life. As the New Testament book of Hebrews tells us, anyone God loves experiences hardship (Hebrews 12:1-8).Read more at location 358
Add a note

Why had Isaac not been sacrificed? The sins of Abraham and his family were still there. How could a holy and just God overlook them? Well, a substitute was offered, a ram. But was it the ram’s blood that took away the debt of the firstborn? No.Read more at location 376
Add a note

The true substitute for Abraham’s son was God’s only Son, Jesus, who died to bear our punishment. “For Christ died for sin once for all, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).Read more at location 381
Add a note

As many have learned and later taught, you don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.Read more at location 407
Add a note

Then they won’t control us and bedevil us with anxiety, pride, anger, and drivenness. Nevertheless, we must not make the mistake of thinking that this story means all we have to do is be willing to part with our idols rather than actually leave them behind.Read more at location 409
Add a note

Sometimes God seems to be killing us when he’s actually saving us. Here he was turning Abraham into a great man—but on the outside it looked like God was being cruel.Read more at location 414
Add a note

We can’t know all the reasons that our Father is allowing bad things to happen to us, but like Jesus did, we can trust him in those difficult times.Read more at location 420
Add a note

In the same way, we know a good thing has become a counterfeit god when its demands on you exceed proper boundaries.Read more at location 440
Add a note

Then he beheld the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and he must have said to himself, “If I had her, finally, something would be right in my miserable life. If I had her, it would fix things.” All the longings of his heart for meaning and affirmation were fixed on Rachel.Read more at location 480
Add a note

The love partner becomes the divine ideal within which to fulfill one’s life. All spiritual and moral needs now become focused in one individual. . . . In one word, the love object is God. . . .Read more at location 491
Add a note

We maintain the fantasy that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed.Read more at location 498
Add a note

Rachel was not just his wife, but his “savior.” He wanted and needed Rachel so profoundly that he heard and saw only the things he wanted to hear and see. That is why he became vulnerable to Laban’s deception. Later, Jacob’s idolatry of Rachel created decades of misery in his family. He adored and favored Rachel’s sons over Leah’s, spoiling and embittering the hearts of all his children, and poisoning the family system. We have a phrase to describe someone who has fallen in love: “He worships the ground she walks on.” How destructive this can be when it is literally the case.Read more at location 549
Add a note

What was she doing? She was trying to find happiness and an identity through traditional family values.Read more at location 572
Add a note

At this point in the story, many contemporary readers will be wondering: “Where are all the spiritual heroes in this story? Whom am I supposed to be emulating? What is the moral of the story?” The reason for our confusion is that we usually read the Bible as a series of disconnected stories, each with a “moral” for how we should live our lives. It is not. Rather, it comprises a single story, telling us how the human race got into its present condition, and how God through Jesus Christ has come and will come to put things right. In other words, the Bible doesn’t give us a god at the top of a moral ladder saying, “If you try hard to summon up your strength and live right, you can make it up!” Instead, the Bible repeatedly shows us weak people who don’t deserve God’s grace, don’t seek it, and don’t appreciate it even after they have received it. If that is the great biblical story arc into which every individual scriptural narrative fits, then what do we learn from this story? We learn that through all of life there runs a ground note of cosmic disappointment. You are never going to lead a wise life until you understand that.Read more at location 578
Add a note

okay.” And he goes to bed with the one who he thinks is Rachel, and literally, the Hebrew says, “in the morning, behold, it was Leah” (Genesis 29:25). One commentator noted about this verse, “This is a miniature of our disillusionment, experienced from Eden onwards.”33 What does that mean? With all due respect to this woman (from whom we have much to learn), it means that no matter what we put our hopes in, in the morning, it is always Leah, never Rachel.Read more at location 588
Add a note

No person, not even the best one, can give your soul all it needs. You are going to think you have gone to bed with Rachel, and you will get up and it will always be Leah. This cosmic disappointment and disillusionment is there in all of life, but we especially feel it in the things upon which we most set our hopes. When you finally realize this, there are four things you can do. You can blame the things that are disappointing you and try to move on to better ones.Read more at location 602
Add a note

calling on the LORD. She used the name Yahweh. “The Lord [Yahweh] has seen my misery,” she says in verse 32. How did she know about Yahweh?> Elohim was the generic Hebrew word for God. All cultures at that time had some general idea of God or gods, but Yahweh was the name of the God who had revealed himself to Abraham, and later to Moses.Read more at location 637
Add a note

So even though she was struggling and confused, she was nonetheless reaching out to a personal God of grace.Read more at location 642
Add a note

“This time, I will praise the LORD.” There was a defiance in that claim. It was a different declaration from the ones she had made after the other births. There was no mention of husband or child. It appears that finally, she had taken her heart’s deepest hopes off of her husband and her children, and had put them on the Lord. Jacob and Laban had stolen Leah’s life, but when she gave her heart finally to the Lord, she got her life back.Read more at location 644
Add a note

Certainly, the writer of Genesis knew it. This child was Judah, and in Genesis 49 we are told that it is through him that the true King, the Messiah, will someday come. God had come to the girl that nobody wanted, the unloved, and made her the ancestral mother of Jesus. Salvation came into the world, not through beautiful Rachel, but through the unwanted one, the unloved one.Read more at location 650
Add a note

This is the God who saves by grace. The gods of moralistic religions favor the successful and the overachievers. They are the ones who climb the moral ladder up to heaven. But the God of the Bible is the one who comes down into this world to accomplish a salvation and give us a grace we could never attain ourselves. He loves the unwanted, the weak and unloved.Read more at location 655
Add a note

They need this in order to save their marriage from the crushing weight of their divine expectations.Read more at location 662
Add a note

How did she do it? She came across Colossians 3, where Saint Paul writes: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God . . . and when Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). She came to realize that neither men nor career nor anything else should be “her life” or identity.Read more at location 683
Add a note

In short, Nietzsche foretold that money in Western culture would become perhaps its main counterfeit god.Read more at location 728
Add a note

Why can’t anyone in the grip of greed see it? The counterfeit god of money uses powerful sociological and psychological dynamics. Everyone tends to live in a particular socioeconomic bracket. Once you are able to afford to live in a particular neighborhood, send your children to its schools, and participate in its social life, you will find yourself surrounded by quite a number of people who have more money than you. You don’t compare yourself to the rest of the world, you compare yourself to those in your bracket. The human heart always wants to justify itself and this is one of the easiest ways. You say, “I don’t live as well as him or her or them. My means are modest compared to theirs.” You can reason and think like that no matter how lavishly you are living. As a result, most Americans think of themselves as middle class, and only 2 percent call themselves “upper class.”43Read more at location 738
Add a note

Jesus warns people far more often about greed than about sex, yet almost no one thinks they are guilty of it. Therefore we should all begin with a working hypothesis that “this could easily be a problem for me.” If greed hides itself so deeply, no one should be confident that it is not a problem for them.Read more at location 746
Add a note

Israel was a conquered nation, under military occupation. Their conquerors, the Romans, levied oppressive taxes on each colony as a means for transferring most of the nation’s wealth and capital to Rome and its citizens. This left the colonial societies impoverished, which kept them subjugated. The only people who lived in comfort and ease in Israel were the Romans who ruled and their local collaborators, the tax collectors. The tax system depended on officials who were charged with extracting, for their Roman overlords, the tax income from each region targeted for collection. Everyone despised them. The people called Zacchaeus a “sinner” (Verse 7), which meant apostate or outcast. If you want to get a sense of how these functionaries were regarded, think of what people thought of the collaborators who, under the Nazis, oppressed their own people during World War II;Read more at location 754
Add a note

Why would anyone take such a job as a tax collector? What could seduce a man to betray his family and country and live as a pariah in his own society? The answer was—money. The incentive the Romans offered tax collectors was almost irresistible. Backed by military force, the tax collector was allowed to demand much more money from his fellow Jews than he had contracted to pay the government. Today, we call this extortion. It was extremely lucrative. Tax collectors were the wealthiest people in society, and the most hated.Read more at location 763
Add a note

For Jesus, greed is not only love of money, but excessive anxiety about it.Read more at location 775
Add a note

To “consist” of your possessions is to be defined by what you own and consume. The term describes a personal identity based on money. It refers to people who, if they lose their wealth, do not have a “self” left, for their personal worth is based on their financial worth.Read more at location 777
Add a note

According to the Bible, idolaters do three things with their idols. They love them, trust them, and obey them.45 “Lovers of money” are those who find themselves daydreaming and fantasizing about new ways to make money, new possessions to buy, and looking with jealousy on those who have more than they do. “Trusters of money” feel they have control of their lives and are safe and secure because of their wealth. Idolatry also makes us “servants of money.” Just as we serve earthly kings and magistrates, so we “sell our souls” to our idols. Because we look to them for our significance (love) and security (trust) we have to have them, and therefore we are driven to serve and, essentially, obey them. When Jesus says that we “serve” money, he uses a word that means the solemn, covenantal service rendered to a king. If you live for money you are a slave. If, however, God becomes the center of your life, that dethrones and demotes money. If your identity and security is in God, it can’t control you through worry and desire. It is one or the other. You either serve God, or you become open to slavery to Mammon.Read more at location 785
Add a note

You know it is. Yet, even though it is clear that the world is filled with greed and materialism, almost no one thinks it is true of them. They are in denial.Read more at location 798
Add a note

blinded by money to do all that and live like that?” ZacchaeusRead more at location 801Note: Most people come to terms with a level of greed that they find acceptable and morally ok. They find the worst examples around and call that greed, but they aren’t greedy! Edit this note

When it takes hold of your heart it blinds you to what is happening, it controls you through your anxieties and lusts, and it brings you to put it ahead of all other things.Read more at location 802
Add a note

Zacchaeus did not approach Jesus with pride but with humility. He did not stand on his dignity and wealth; instead he put aside his station in life and was willing to be ridiculed in order to get a glimpse of Jesus. Ultimately, it was not Zacchaeus who asked Jesus into his life, but Jesus who asked Zacchaeus into his.Read more at location 820
Add a note

Since he knew salvation was not through the law, but through grace, he did not aim to live by only fulfilling the letter of the law. He wanted to go beyond it.Read more at location 837
Add a note

God’s salvation does not come in response to a changed life. A changed life comes in response to the salvation, offered as a free gift.Read more at location 853
Add a note

If salvation had been something earned through obedience to the moral code, then Zacchaeus’s question would have been “How much must I give?” However, these promises were responses to lavish, generous grace, so his question was “How much can I give?” He realized that while being financially rich, he had been spiritually bankrupt, but Jesus had poured out spiritual riches on him freely. He went from being an oppressor of the poor to being a champion of justice.Read more at location 855
Add a note

Jesus had replaced money as Zacchaeus’s savior, and so money went back to being merely that, just money. It was now a tool for doing good, for serving people. Now that his identity and security were rooted in Christ, he had more money than he needed. The grace of God had transformed his attitude toward his wealth.Read more at location 859
Add a note

To understand how Zacchaeus’s heart began to change, we should consider that counterfeit gods come in clusters, making the idolatry structure of the heart complex. There are “deep idols” within the heart beneath the more concrete and visible “surface idols” that we serve.46 Sin in our hearts affects our basic motivational drives so they become idolatrous, “deep idols.” Some people are strongly motivated by a desire for influence and power, while others are more excited by approval and appreciation.Read more at location 862
Add a note

For example, money can be a surface idol that serves to satisfy more foundational impulses. Some people want lots of money as a way to control their world and life. Such people usually don’t spend much money and live very modestly.Read more at location 872
Add a note

Others want money for access to social circles and to make themselves beautiful and attractive. These people do spend their money on themselves in lavish ways. Other people want money because it gives them so much power over others. In every case, money functions as an idol and yet, because of various deep idols, it results in very different patterns of behavior. The person using money to serve a deep idol of control will often feel superior to people using money to attain power or social approval.Read more at location 874
Add a note

This is why idols cannot be dealt with by simply eliminating surface idols like money or sex.Read more at location 885
Add a note

Direct appeals like that won’t work, because the deep idols have to be dealt with at the heart level. There is only one way to change at the heart level and that is through faith in the gospel.Read more at location 886
Add a note

This is what Paul was saying. Jesus gave up all his treasure in heaven, in order to make you his treasure—for you are a treasured people (1 Peter 2:9-10). When you see him dying to make you his treasure, that will make him yours. Money will cease to be the currency of your significance and security, and you will want to bless others with what you have. To the degree that you grasp the gospel, money will have no dominion over you. Think on his costly grace until it changes you into a generous people. The solution to stinginess is a reorientation to the generosity of Christ in the gospel, how he poured out his wealth for you. Now you don’t have to worry about money—the Cross proves God’s care for you and gives you the security. Now you don’t have to envy anyone else’s money. Jesus’s love and salvation confers on you a remarkable status—one that money cannot give you. Money cannot save you from tragedy, or give you control in a chaotic world.Read more at location 899
Add a note

Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding and identity, our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without a complete change of heart will be superficial and fleeting.Read more at location 908
Add a note

Andrew Carnegie knew that money was an idol in his heart, but he didn’t know how to root it out. It can’t be removed, only replaced. It must be supplanted by the one who, though rich, became poor, so that we might truly be rich.Read more at location 935
Add a note

“Achievement is the alcohol of our time,” says Mary Bell, a counselor who works with high-level executives.Read more at location 956
Add a note

In the end, achievement can’t really answer the big questions—Who am I? What am I really worth? How do I face death?Read more at location 966
Add a note

More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength, and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme. One sign that you have made success an idol is the false sense of security it brings. The poor and the marginalized expect suffering, they know that life on this earth is “nasty, brutish, and short.” Successful people are much more shocked and overwhelmed by troubles.Read more at location 970
Add a note

If your success is more than just success to you—if it is the measure of your value and worth—then accomplishment in one limited area of life will make you believe you have expertise in all areas.Read more at location 982
Add a note

The main sign that we are into success idolatry, however, is that we find we cannot maintain our self-confidence in life unless we remain at the top of our chosen field.Read more at location 985
Add a note

Modern society, then, puts great pressure on individuals to prove their worth through personal achievement. It is not enough to be a good citizen or family member. You must win, be on top, to show you are one of the best.Read more at location 1006
Add a note

The family is no longer what Christopher Lasch once called a “haven in a heartless world,” a counterbalance to the dog-eat-dog areas of life.58 Instead, the family has become the nursery where the craving for success is first cultivated.Read more at location 1010
Add a note

The word had the resonance in its day that cancer has in ours. Naaman’s body was going through a slow-motion explosion.Read more at location 1031
Add a note

The operating principle of religion is: If you live a good life, then the gods or God will have to bless you and give you prosperity.Read more at location 1066
Add a note

That is why traditional religion always expects that the gods will be working through the successful, not the outsider and the failures.Read more at location 1068
Add a note

The God of Israel is not on a leash, he cannot be bought or appeased. The gods of religion can be controlled. If we offer them hard work and devotion, then they are beholden to us. However, the God of Israel cannot be approached like that. Whatever he gives us is a gift of grace.Read more at location 1071
Add a note

Naaman is after a God who can be put into debt, but this is a God of grace, who puts everyone else in his debt. Naaman is after a private God, a God for you and you but not a God for everybody, but this God is the God of everyone, whether we acknowledge it or not.Read more at location 1080
Add a note

God is not an extension of culture, but a transformer of culture, not a controllable but a sovereign Lord. Now he was being confronted with a God who in his dealings with human beings only operates on the basis of grace.Read more at location 1098
Add a note

No one can control the true God because no one can earn, merit, or achieve their own blessing and salvation.Read more at location 1099
Add a note

a God of grace, whose salvation cannot be earned, only received, he would continue to be enslaved to his idols. He would continue to use them to earn a security and significance that they could not produce. Only if he understood God’s grace would he see his successes were ultimately gifts from God.Read more at location 1105
Add a note

“Just wash yourself,” then, was a command that was hard because it was so easy. To do it, Naaman had to admit he was helpless and weak and had to receive his salvation as a free gift. If you want God’s grace, all you need is need, all you need is nothing. But that kind of spiritual humility is hard to muster. We come to God saying, “Look at all I’ve done,” or maybe “Look at all I’ve suffered.” God, however, wants us to look to him—to just wash.Read more at location 1108
Add a note

She did what the entire Bible tells us to do. She did not seek revenge, she trusted God to be the judge of all. She forgave him and became the vehicle for his healing and salvation.Read more at location 1137
Add a note

This biblical theme, that forgiveness always requires a suffering servant, finds its climax in Jesus, who fulfills the prophecies of a Suffering Servant who will come to save the world (Isaiah 53). Though he had lived in joy and glory with his father, he lost it all.Read more at location 1141
Add a note

The idol of success cannot be just expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart’s desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable.63 How can we break our heart’s fixation on doing “some great thing” in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning?Read more at location 1159
Add a note

When we believe in what he accomplished for us with our minds, and when we are moved by what he did for us in our hearts, it begins to kill off the addiction, the need for success at all costs.Read more at location 1164
Add a note

Idolatry. When love of one’s people becomes an absolute, it turns into racism. When love of equality turns into a supreme thing, it can result in hatred and violence toward anyone who has led a privileged life.Read more at location 1199
Add a note

But there is another candidate to fill this spiritual vacuum. We can also look to politics. We can look upon our political leaders as “messiahs,” our political policies as saving doctrine, and turn our political activism into a kind of religion.Read more at location 1203
Add a note

One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it.Read more at location 1206
Add a note

They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death. They believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart.Read more at location 1211
Add a note

Dutch-Canadian philosopher Al Wolters taught that in the biblical view of things, the main problem in life is sin, and the only solution is God and his grace. The alternative to this view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy.Read more at location 1220
Note: Wow! Romans 1 Edit this note

The original temptation in the Garden of Eden was to resent the limits God had put on us (“You shall not eat of the tree. . . .”; Genesis 2:17) and to seek to be “as God” by taking power over our own destiny. We gave in to this temptation and now it is part of our nature. Rather than accept our finitude and dependence on God, we desperately seek ways to assure ourselves that we still have power over our own lives. But this is an illusion.Read more at location 1235
Add a note

You make not your people, but your political philosophy into a saving faith. This happens when politics becomes “ideological.”Read more at location 1263
Add a note

In the wake of the collapse of socialism, the pendulum swung toward an embrace of free market capitalism as the best solution for dealing with the recurrent problems of poverty and injustice. Many would say today that this is the new reigning ideology.Read more at location 1280
Add a note

In conservative economic thought, free markets and competition will solve our problems, and therefore liberals and government are the obstacles to a happy society.Read more at location 1293
Add a note

In any culture in which God is largely absent, sex, money, and politics will fill the vacuum for different people.Read more at location 1298
Add a note

As Niebuhr taught, they go back to the beginning of the world, to our alienation from God, and to our frantic efforts to compensate for our feelings of cosmic nakedness and powerlessness. The only way to deal with all these things is to heal our relationship with God.Read more at location 1301
Add a note

In short, all we are and have is given to us by God. We are not infinite Creators, but finite, dependent creatures.Read more at location 1333
Add a note

Power idols are a “deep idols” that can express themselves through a great variety of other “surface”Read more at location 1345
Add a note

The reason he wanted to be in Christian ministry was not because he was attracted to serving God and others, but to the power of knowing he was right, that he had the truth. His power idol took a sexual form, and then a religious one. It hid itself well.Read more at location 1353
Add a note

The Illusion that We Are in Control What we learn here is that theology matters, that much of our addiction to power and control is due to false conceptions of God. Gods of our own making may allow us to be “masters of our fate.” Sociologist Christian Smith gave the name “moralistic, therapeutic deism” to the dominant understanding of God he discovered among younger Americans. In his book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, he describes this set of beliefs. God blesses and takes to heaven those who try to live good and decent lives (the “moralistic” belief). The central goal of life is not to sacrifice, or to deny oneself, but to be happy and feel good about yourself (the “therapeutic” belief). Though God exists and created the world, he does not need to be particularly involved in our lives except when there is a problem (that is “deism”).90Read more at location 1383
Add a note

Some have pointed out that “moralistic, therapeutic deism” could only develop in a comfortable, prosperous society among privileged people. People “at the top” are eager to attribute their position to their own intellect, savvy, and hard work. TheRead more at location 1392
Add a note

We are the product of three things—genetics, environment, and our personal choices—but two of these three factors we have no power over. We are not nearly as responsible for our success as our popular views of God and reality lead us to think.Read more at location 1395
Add a note

Most of the forces that make us who we are lie in the hand of God. We should not “take pride in one man over against another,” wrote the Apostle Paul. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:6-7)Read more at location 1410
Add a note

Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed.Read more at location 1424
Add a note

The first dream had been, in a sense, an academic lesson. It spoke in general terms about the character of God, and the character of human power. This time, God was getting personal. The academic lessons had not helped.Read more at location 1428
Add a note

God was not after retribution, vengeance, or destruction. This was discipline—pain inflicted with the motive of correction and redemption.Read more at location 1431
Add a note

It was this: “The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.” This means that anyone who is successful is simply a recipient of God’s unmerited favor.Read more at location 1433
Add a note

This is a rudimentary form of the gospel—that what we have is the result of grace, not of our “works” or efforts. God was saying something like this: “King Nebuchadnezzar—you must understand that your power has been given to you by grace from God. If you knew that, you would be both more relaxed and secure and more humble and just. If you think you earned your position through your own merit and works, you will continue to be both scared and cruel.”Read more at location 1436
Add a note

The king looked over his realm and as he did so the pride of his heart asserted itself. At that moment, a voice from heaven said: “You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle . . . until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:31-32).Read more at location 1443
Add a note

When we set our hearts on power, we become hardened predators. We become like what we worship.94Read more at location 1458
Add a note

The lion of the fairy tale, Aslan, represents Christ, and the story bears witness to what all Christians have discovered, that pride leads to death, to breakdown, to a loss of humanity.Read more at location 1471
Add a note

They are not the idols of our heart, but of our culture and society.Read more at location 1495
Add a note

counterfeit god—a good thing turned into an absolute value.Read more at location 1520
Add a note

At the heart of every culture is its main “Hope,” what it tells its members that life is all about.Read more at location 1525
Add a note

The answer to our cultural problem must be more religion, right? Not necessarily. Idolatry is so pervasive that it dominates this area as well.Read more at location 1543
Add a note

An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give. Idolatry functions widely inside religious communitiesRead more at location 1545
Add a note

Another form of idolatry within religious communities turns spiritual gifts and ministry success into a counterfeit god. Spiritual gifts (talent, ability, performance, growth) are often mistaken for what the Bible calls spiritual “fruit” (love, joy, patience, humility, courage, gentleness).103 Even ministers who believe with the mind that “I am only saved by grace” can come to feel in their heart that their standing with God depends largely on how many lives they are changing.Read more at location 1551
Add a note

Another kind of religious idolatry has to do with moral living itself. As I have argued at length elsewhere, 104 the default mode of the human heart is to seek to control God and others through our moral performance. Because we have lived virtuous lives we feel that God (and the people we meet) owe us respect and support. Though we may give lip service to Jesus as our example and inspiration, we are still looking to ourselves and our own moral striving for salvation.Read more at location 1556
Add a note

Because of the self-justifying nature of the human heart, it is natural to see our own culture or class characteristics as superior to everyone else’s.Read more at location 1635
Add a note

Paul did not say, “You are breaking the rule against racism,” but rather that Peter was “not acting in line with the gospel” (Galatians 2:14). Racial prejudice, Paul argued, was a denial of the very principle of grace salvation. He argued, “Peter, if we are all saved by grace alone—how can you feel superior to anyone? How can you continue to be racially and nationally exclusive? Use the gospel on your heart!” Peter, of course, did know the gospel at one level, but at a deeper level he wasn’t fully shaped by it. He wasn’t “walking in line” with it.Read more at location 1640
Add a note

Jonah stands as a warning that human hearts never change quickly or easily, even when a person is being mentored directly by God.Read more at location 1690

Most people spend their lives trying to make their heart’s fondest dreams come true. Isn’t that what life is all about, “the pursuit of happiness”? We search endlessly for ways to acquire the things we desire, and we are willing to sacrifice much to achieve them.Read more at location 213Add a note

It is because our hearts fashion these desires into idols.Read more at location 232Add a note

Paul summarized the history of the human race in one sentence: “They worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imaginations, our heart’s most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God himself.Read more at location 232Add a note

Two Jewish philosophers who knew the Scriptures intimately concluded: “The central . . . principle of the Bible [is] the rejection of idolatry.”19 The Bible is therefore filled with story after story depicting the innumerable forms and devastating effects of idol worship.Read more at location 238Add a note

Was God just a means to an end? To whom was Abraham ultimately giving his heart?Read more at location 265Add a note

Abraham’s affection had become adoration. Previously, Abraham’s meaning in life had been dependent on God’s word. Now it was becoming dependent on Isaac’s love and well-being. The center of Abraham’s life was shifting. God was not saying you cannot love your son, but that you must not turn a loved one into a counterfeit god.Read more at location 278Add a note

So when God told the Israelites that the firstborn’s life belonged to him unless ransomed, he was saying in the most vivid way possible in those cultures that every family on earth owed a debt to eternal justice—the debt of sin.Read more at location 301Add a note

What Abraham was able to see was that this test was about loving God supremely.Read more at location 335Add a note

This doesn’t mean that God was trying to find out if Abraham loved him. The All-seeing God knows the state of every heart. Rather, God was putting Abraham through the furnace, so his love for God could finally “come forth as pure gold.” It is not hard to see why God was using Isaac as the means for this. If God had not intervened, Abraham would have certainly come to love his son more than anything in the world, if he did not already do so. That would have been idolatry, and all idolatry is destructive.Read more at location 339Add a note

God’s extremely rough treatment of Abraham was actually merciful. Isaac was a wonderful gift to Abraham, but he was not safe to have and hold until Abraham was willing to put God first.Read more at location 344Add a note

“My desire for completely successful and happy children is selfish. It’s all about my need to feel worthwhile and valuable. If I really knew God’s love—then I could accept less-than-perfect kids and wouldn’t be crushing them. If God’s love meant more to me than my children, I could love my children less selfishly and more truly.”Read more at location 352Add a note

Anna could not imagine that God might have a plan for her children’s lives wiser than her own. She had mapped out a perfect life, without failures or disappointments.Read more at location 356Add a note

People who have never suffered in life have less empathy for others, little knowledge of their own shortcomings and limitations, no endurance in the face of hardship, and unrealistic expectations for life. As the New Testament book of Hebrews tells us, anyone God loves experiences hardship (Hebrews 12:1-8).Read more at location 358Add a note

Why had Isaac not been sacrificed? The sins of Abraham and his family were still there. How could a holy and just God overlook them? Well, a substitute was offered, a ram. But was it the ram’s blood that took away the debt of the firstborn? No.Read more at location 376Add a note

The true substitute for Abraham’s son was God’s only Son, Jesus, who died to bear our punishment. “For Christ died for sin once for all, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).Read more at location 381Add a note

As many have learned and later taught, you don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.Read more at location 407Add a note

Then they won’t control us and bedevil us with anxiety, pride, anger, and drivenness. Nevertheless, we must not make the mistake of thinking that this story means all we have to do is be willing to part with our idols rather than actually leave them behind.Read more at location 409Add a note

Sometimes God seems to be killing us when he’s actually saving us. Here he was turning Abraham into a great man—but on the outside it looked like God was being cruel.Read more at location 414Add a note

We can’t know all the reasons that our Father is allowing bad things to happen to us, but like Jesus did, we can trust him in those difficult times.Read more at location 420Add a note

In the same way, we know a good thing has become a counterfeit god when its demands on you exceed proper boundaries.Read more at location 440Add a note

Then he beheld the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and he must have said to himself, “If I had her, finally, something would be right in my miserable life. If I had her, it would fix things.” All the longings of his heart for meaning and affirmation were fixed on Rachel.Read more at location 480Add a note

The love partner becomes the divine ideal within which to fulfill one’s life. All spiritual and moral needs now become focused in one individual. . . . In one word, the love object is God. . . .Read more at location 491Add a note

We maintain the fantasy that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed.Read more at location 498Add a note

Rachel was not just his wife, but his “savior.” He wanted and needed Rachel so profoundly that he heard and saw only the things he wanted to hear and see. That is why he became vulnerable to Laban’s deception. Later, Jacob’s idolatry of Rachel created decades of misery in his family. He adored and favored Rachel’s sons over Leah’s, spoiling and embittering the hearts of all his children, and poisoning the family system. We have a phrase to describe someone who has fallen in love: “He worships the ground she walks on.” How destructive this can be when it is literally the case.Read more at location 549Add a note

What was she doing? She was trying to find happiness and an identity through traditional family values.Read more at location 572Add a note

At this point in the story, many contemporary readers will be wondering: “Where are all the spiritual heroes in this story? Whom am I supposed to be emulating? What is the moral of the story?” The reason for our confusion is that we usually read the Bible as a series of disconnected stories, each with a “moral” for how we should live our lives. It is not. Rather, it comprises a single story, telling us how the human race got into its present condition, and how God through Jesus Christ has come and will come to put things right. In other words, the Bible doesn’t give us a god at the top of a moral ladder saying, “If you try hard to summon up your strength and live right, you can make it up!” Instead, the Bible repeatedly shows us weak people who don’t deserve God’s grace, don’t seek it, and don’t appreciate it even after they have received it. If that is the great biblical story arc into which every individual scriptural narrative fits, then what do we learn from this story? We learn that through all of life there runs a ground note of cosmic disappointment. You are never going to lead a wise life until you understand that.Read more at location 578Add a note

okay.” And he goes to bed with the one who he thinks is Rachel, and literally, the Hebrew says, “in the morning, behold, it was Leah” (Genesis 29:25). One commentator noted about this verse, “This is a miniature of our disillusionment, experienced from Eden onwards.”33 What does that mean? With all due respect to this woman (from whom we have much to learn), it means that no matter what we put our hopes in, in the morning, it is always Leah, never Rachel.Read more at location 588Add a note

No person, not even the best one, can give your soul all it needs. You are going to think you have gone to bed with Rachel, and you will get up and it will always be Leah. This cosmic disappointment and disillusionment is there in all of life, but we especially feel it in the things upon which we most set our hopes. When you finally realize this, there are four things you can do. You can blame the things that are disappointing you and try to move on to better ones.Read more at location 602Add a note

calling on the LORD. She used the name Yahweh. “The Lord [Yahweh] has seen my misery,” she says in verse 32. How did she know about Yahweh?> Elohim was the generic Hebrew word for God. All cultures at that time had some general idea of God or gods, but Yahweh was the name of the God who had revealed himself to Abraham, and later to Moses.Read more at location 637Add a note

So even though she was struggling and confused, she was nonetheless reaching out to a personal God of grace.Read more at location 642Add a note

“This time, I will praise the LORD.” There was a defiance in that claim. It was a different declaration from the ones she had made after the other births. There was no mention of husband or child. It appears that finally, she had taken her heart’s deepest hopes off of her husband and her children, and had put them on the Lord. Jacob and Laban had stolen Leah’s life, but when she gave her heart finally to the Lord, she got her life back.Read more at location 644Add a note

Certainly, the writer of Genesis knew it. This child was Judah, and in Genesis 49 we are told that it is through him that the true King, the Messiah, will someday come. God had come to the girl that nobody wanted, the unloved, and made her the ancestral mother of Jesus. Salvation came into the world, not through beautiful Rachel, but through the unwanted one, the unloved one.Read more at location 650Add a note

This is the God who saves by grace. The gods of moralistic religions favor the successful and the overachievers. They are the ones who climb the moral ladder up to heaven. But the God of the Bible is the one who comes down into this world to accomplish a salvation and give us a grace we could never attain ourselves. He loves the unwanted, the weak and unloved.Read more at location 655Add a note

They need this in order to save their marriage from the crushing weight of their divine expectations.Read more at location 662Add a note

How did she do it? She came across Colossians 3, where Saint Paul writes: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God . . . and when Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). She came to realize that neither men nor career nor anything else should be “her life” or identity.Read more at location 683Add a note

In short, Nietzsche foretold that money in Western culture would become perhaps its main counterfeit god.Read more at location 728Add a note

Why can’t anyone in the grip of greed see it? The counterfeit god of money uses powerful sociological and psychological dynamics. Everyone tends to live in a particular socioeconomic bracket. Once you are able to afford to live in a particular neighborhood, send your children to its schools, and participate in its social life, you will find yourself surrounded by quite a number of people who have more money than you. You don’t compare yourself to the rest of the world, you compare yourself to those in your bracket. The human heart always wants to justify itself and this is one of the easiest ways. You say, “I don’t live as well as him or her or them. My means are modest compared to theirs.” You can reason and think like that no matter how lavishly you are living. As a result, most Americans think of themselves as middle class, and only 2 percent call themselves “upper class.”43Read more at location 738Add a note

Jesus warns people far more often about greed than about sex, yet almost no one thinks they are guilty of it. Therefore we should all begin with a working hypothesis that “this could easily be a problem for me.” If greed hides itself so deeply, no one should be confident that it is not a problem for them.Read more at location 746Add a note

Israel was a conquered nation, under military occupation. Their conquerors, the Romans, levied oppressive taxes on each colony as a means for transferring most of the nation’s wealth and capital to Rome and its citizens. This left the colonial societies impoverished, which kept them subjugated. The only people who lived in comfort and ease in Israel were the Romans who ruled and their local collaborators, the tax collectors. The tax system depended on officials who were charged with extracting, for their Roman overlords, the tax income from each region targeted for collection. Everyone despised them. The people called Zacchaeus a “sinner” (Verse 7), which meant apostate or outcast. If you want to get a sense of how these functionaries were regarded, think of what people thought of the collaborators who, under the Nazis, oppressed their own people during World War II;Read more at location 754Add a note

Why would anyone take such a job as a tax collector? What could seduce a man to betray his family and country and live as a pariah in his own society? The answer was—money. The incentive the Romans offered tax collectors was almost irresistible. Backed by military force, the tax collector was allowed to demand much more money from his fellow Jews than he had contracted to pay the government. Today, we call this extortion. It was extremely lucrative. Tax collectors were the wealthiest people in society, and the most hated.Read more at location 763Add a note

For Jesus, greed is not only love of money, but excessive anxiety about it.Read more at location 775Add a note

To “consist” of your possessions is to be defined by what you own and consume. The term describes a personal identity based on money. It refers to people who, if they lose their wealth, do not have a “self” left, for their personal worth is based on their financial worth.Read more at location 777Add a note

According to the Bible, idolaters do three things with their idols. They love them, trust them, and obey them.45 “Lovers of money” are those who find themselves daydreaming and fantasizing about new ways to make money, new possessions to buy, and looking with jealousy on those who have more than they do. “Trusters of money” feel they have control of their lives and are safe and secure because of their wealth. Idolatry also makes us “servants of money.” Just as we serve earthly kings and magistrates, so we “sell our souls” to our idols. Because we look to them for our significance (love) and security (trust) we have to have them, and therefore we are driven to serve and, essentially, obey them. When Jesus says that we “serve” money, he uses a word that means the solemn, covenantal service rendered to a king. If you live for money you are a slave. If, however, God becomes the center of your life, that dethrones and demotes money. If your identity and security is in God, it can’t control you through worry and desire. It is one or the other. You either serve God, or you become open to slavery to Mammon.Read more at location 785Add a note

You know it is. Yet, even though it is clear that the world is filled with greed and materialism, almost no one thinks it is true of them. They are in denial.Read more at location 798Add a note

blinded by money to do all that and live like that?” ZacchaeusRead more at location 801Note: Most people come to terms with a level of greed that they find acceptable and morally ok. They find the worst examples around and call that greed, but they aren’t greedy! Edit this note

When it takes hold of your heart it blinds you to what is happening, it controls you through your anxieties and lusts, and it brings you to put it ahead of all other things.Read more at location 802Add a note

Zacchaeus did not approach Jesus with pride but with humility. He did not stand on his dignity and wealth; instead he put aside his station in life and was willing to be ridiculed in order to get a glimpse of Jesus. Ultimately, it was not Zacchaeus who asked Jesus into his life, but Jesus who asked Zacchaeus into his.Read more at location 820Add a note

Since he knew salvation was not through the law, but through grace, he did not aim to live by only fulfilling the letter of the law. He wanted to go beyond it.Read more at location 837Add a note

God’s salvation does not come in response to a changed life. A changed life comes in response to the salvation, offered as a free gift.Read more at location 853Add a note

If salvation had been something earned through obedience to the moral code, then Zacchaeus’s question would have been “How much must I give?” However, these promises were responses to lavish, generous grace, so his question was “How much can I give?” He realized that while being financially rich, he had been spiritually bankrupt, but Jesus had poured out spiritual riches on him freely. He went from being an oppressor of the poor to being a champion of justice.Read more at location 855Add a note

Jesus had replaced money as Zacchaeus’s savior, and so money went back to being merely that, just money. It was now a tool for doing good, for serving people. Now that his identity and security were rooted in Christ, he had more money than he needed. The grace of God had transformed his attitude toward his wealth.Read more at location 859Add a note

To understand how Zacchaeus’s heart began to change, we should consider that counterfeit gods come in clusters, making the idolatry structure of the heart complex. There are “deep idols” within the heart beneath the more concrete and visible “surface idols” that we serve.46 Sin in our hearts affects our basic motivational drives so they become idolatrous, “deep idols.” Some people are strongly motivated by a desire for influence and power, while others are more excited by approval and appreciation.Read more at location 862Add a note

For example, money can be a surface idol that serves to satisfy more foundational impulses. Some people want lots of money as a way to control their world and life. Such people usually don’t spend much money and live very modestly.Read more at location 872Add a note

Others want money for access to social circles and to make themselves beautiful and attractive. These people do spend their money on themselves in lavish ways. Other people want money because it gives them so much power over others. In every case, money functions as an idol and yet, because of various deep idols, it results in very different patterns of behavior. The person using money to serve a deep idol of control will often feel superior to people using money to attain power or social approval.Read more at location 874Add a note

This is why idols cannot be dealt with by simply eliminating surface idols like money or sex.Read more at location 885Add a note

Direct appeals like that won’t work, because the deep idols have to be dealt with at the heart level. There is only one way to change at the heart level and that is through faith in the gospel.Read more at location 886Add a note

This is what Paul was saying. Jesus gave up all his treasure in heaven, in order to make you his treasure—for you are a treasured people (1 Peter 2:9-10). When you see him dying to make you his treasure, that will make him yours. Money will cease to be the currency of your significance and security, and you will want to bless others with what you have. To the degree that you grasp the gospel, money will have no dominion over you. Think on his costly grace until it changes you into a generous people. The solution to stinginess is a reorientation to the generosity of Christ in the gospel, how he poured out his wealth for you. Now you don’t have to worry about money—the Cross proves God’s care for you and gives you the security. Now you don’t have to envy anyone else’s money. Jesus’s love and salvation confers on you a remarkable status—one that money cannot give you. Money cannot save you from tragedy, or give you control in a chaotic world.Read more at location 899Add a note

Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding and identity, our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without a complete change of heart will be superficial and fleeting.Read more at location 908Add a note

Andrew Carnegie knew that money was an idol in his heart, but he didn’t know how to root it out. It can’t be removed, only replaced. It must be supplanted by the one who, though rich, became poor, so that we might truly be rich.Read more at location 935Add a note

“Achievement is the alcohol of our time,” says Mary Bell, a counselor who works with high-level executives.Read more at location 956Add a note

In the end, achievement can’t really answer the big questions—Who am I? What am I really worth? How do I face death?Read more at location 966Add a note

More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength, and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme. One sign that you have made success an idol is the false sense of security it brings. The poor and the marginalized expect suffering, they know that life on this earth is “nasty, brutish, and short.” Successful people are much more shocked and overwhelmed by troubles.Read more at location 970Add a note

If your success is more than just success to you—if it is the measure of your value and worth—then accomplishment in one limited area of life will make you believe you have expertise in all areas.Read more at location 982Add a note

The main sign that we are into success idolatry, however, is that we find we cannot maintain our self-confidence in life unless we remain at the top of our chosen field.Read more at location 985Add a note

Modern society, then, puts great pressure on individuals to prove their worth through personal achievement. It is not enough to be a good citizen or family member. You must win, be on top, to show you are one of the best.Read more at location 1006Add a note

The family is no longer what Christopher Lasch once called a “haven in a heartless world,” a counterbalance to the dog-eat-dog areas of life.58 Instead, the family has become the nursery where the craving for success is first cultivated.Read more at location 1010Add a note

The word had the resonance in its day that cancer has in ours. Naaman’s body was going through a slow-motion explosion.Read more at location 1031Add a note

The operating principle of religion is: If you live a good life, then the gods or God will have to bless you and give you prosperity.Read more at location 1066Add a note

That is why traditional religion always expects that the gods will be working through the successful, not the outsider and the failures.Read more at location 1068Add a note

The God of Israel is not on a leash, he cannot be bought or appeased. The gods of religion can be controlled. If we offer them hard work and devotion, then they are beholden to us. However, the God of Israel cannot be approached like that. Whatever he gives us is a gift of grace.Read more at location 1071Add a note

Naaman is after a God who can be put into debt, but this is a God of grace, who puts everyone else in his debt. Naaman is after a private God, a God for you and you but not a God for everybody, but this God is the God of everyone, whether we acknowledge it or not.Read more at location 1080Add a note

God is not an extension of culture, but a transformer of culture, not a controllable but a sovereign Lord. Now he was being confronted with a God who in his dealings with human beings only operates on the basis of grace.Read more at location 1098Add a note

No one can control the true God because no one can earn, merit, or achieve their own blessing and salvation.Read more at location 1099Add a note

a God of grace, whose salvation cannot be earned, only received, he would continue to be enslaved to his idols. He would continue to use them to earn a security and significance that they could not produce. Only if he understood God’s grace would he see his successes were ultimately gifts from God.Read more at location 1105Add a note

“Just wash yourself,” then, was a command that was hard because it was so easy. To do it, Naaman had to admit he was helpless and weak and had to receive his salvation as a free gift. If you want God’s grace, all you need is need, all you need is nothing. But that kind of spiritual humility is hard to muster. We come to God saying, “Look at all I’ve done,” or maybe “Look at all I’ve suffered.” God, however, wants us to look to him—to just wash.Read more at location 1108Add a note

She did what the entire Bible tells us to do. She did not seek revenge, she trusted God to be the judge of all. She forgave him and became the vehicle for his healing and salvation.Read more at location 1137Add a note

This biblical theme, that forgiveness always requires a suffering servant, finds its climax in Jesus, who fulfills the prophecies of a Suffering Servant who will come to save the world (Isaiah 53). Though he had lived in joy and glory with his father, he lost it all.Read more at location 1141Add a note

The idol of success cannot be just expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart’s desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable.63 How can we break our heart’s fixation on doing “some great thing” in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning?Read more at location 1159Add a note

When we believe in what he accomplished for us with our minds, and when we are moved by what he did for us in our hearts, it begins to kill off the addiction, the need for success at all costs.Read more at location 1164Add a note

Idolatry. When love of one’s people becomes an absolute, it turns into racism. When love of equality turns into a supreme thing, it can result in hatred and violence toward anyone who has led a privileged life.Read more at location 1199Add a note

But there is another candidate to fill this spiritual vacuum. We can also look to politics. We can look upon our political leaders as “messiahs,” our political policies as saving doctrine, and turn our political activism into a kind of religion.Read more at location 1203Add a note

One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it.Read more at location 1206Add a note

They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death. They believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart.Read more at location 1211Add a note

Dutch-Canadian philosopher Al Wolters taught that in the biblical view of things, the main problem in life is sin, and the only solution is God and his grace. The alternative to this view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy.Read more at location 1220Note: Wow! Romans 1 Edit this note

The original temptation in the Garden of Eden was to resent the limits God had put on us (“You shall not eat of the tree. . . .”; Genesis 2:17) and to seek to be “as God” by taking power over our own destiny. We gave in to this temptation and now it is part of our nature. Rather than accept our finitude and dependence on God, we desperately seek ways to assure ourselves that we still have power over our own lives. But this is an illusion.Read more at location 1235Add a note

You make not your people, but your political philosophy into a saving faith. This happens when politics becomes “ideological.”Read more at location 1263Add a note

In the wake of the collapse of socialism, the pendulum swung toward an embrace of free market capitalism as the best solution for dealing with the recurrent problems of poverty and injustice. Many would say today that this is the new reigning ideology.Read more at location 1280Add a note

In conservative economic thought, free markets and competition will solve our problems, and therefore liberals and government are the obstacles to a happy society.Read more at location 1293Add a note

In any culture in which God is largely absent, sex, money, and politics will fill the vacuum for different people.Read more at location 1298Add a note

As Niebuhr taught, they go back to the beginning of the world, to our alienation from God, and to our frantic efforts to compensate for our feelings of cosmic nakedness and powerlessness. The only way to deal with all these things is to heal our relationship with God.Read more at location 1301Add a note

In short, all we are and have is given to us by God. We are not infinite Creators, but finite, dependent creatures.Read more at location 1333Add a note

Power idols are a “deep idols” that can express themselves through a great variety of other “surface”Read more at location 1345Add a note

The reason he wanted to be in Christian ministry was not because he was attracted to serving God and others, but to the power of knowing he was right, that he had the truth. His power idol took a sexual form, and then a religious one. It hid itself well.Read more at location 1353Add a note

The Illusion that We Are in Control What we learn here is that theology matters, that much of our addiction to power and control is due to false conceptions of God. Gods of our own making may allow us to be “masters of our fate.” Sociologist Christian Smith gave the name “moralistic, therapeutic deism” to the dominant understanding of God he discovered among younger Americans. In his book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, he describes this set of beliefs. God blesses and takes to heaven those who try to live good and decent lives (the “moralistic” belief). The central goal of life is not to sacrifice, or to deny oneself, but to be happy and feel good about yourself (the “therapeutic” belief). Though God exists and created the world, he does not need to be particularly involved in our lives except when there is a problem (that is “deism”).90Read more at location 1383Add a note

Some have pointed out that “moralistic, therapeutic deism” could only develop in a comfortable, prosperous society among privileged people. People “at the top” are eager to attribute their position to their own intellect, savvy, and hard work. TheRead more at location 1392Add a note

We are the product of three things—genetics, environment, and our personal choices—but two of these three factors we have no power over. We are not nearly as responsible for our success as our popular views of God and reality lead us to think.Read more at location 1395Add a note

Most of the forces that make us who we are lie in the hand of God. We should not “take pride in one man over against another,” wrote the Apostle Paul. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:6-7)Read more at location 1410Add a note

Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed.Read more at location 1424Add a note

The first dream had been, in a sense, an academic lesson. It spoke in general terms about the character of God, and the character of human power. This time, God was getting personal. The academic lessons had not helped.Read more at location 1428Add a note

God was not after retribution, vengeance, or destruction. This was discipline—pain inflicted with the motive of correction and redemption.Read more at location 1431Add a note

It was this: “The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.” This means that anyone who is successful is simply a recipient of God’s unmerited favor.Read more at location 1433Add a note

This is a rudimentary form of the gospel—that what we have is the result of grace, not of our “works” or efforts. God was saying something like this: “King Nebuchadnezzar—you must understand that your power has been given to you by grace from God. If you knew that, you would be both more relaxed and secure and more humble and just. If you think you earned your position through your own merit and works, you will continue to be both scared and cruel.”Read more at location 1436Add a note

The king looked over his realm and as he did so the pride of his heart asserted itself. At that moment, a voice from heaven said: “You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle . . . until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:31-32).Read more at location 1443Add a note

When we set our hearts on power, we become hardened predators. We become like what we worship.94Read more at location 1458Add a note

The lion of the fairy tale, Aslan, represents Christ, and the story bears witness to what all Christians have discovered, that pride leads to death, to breakdown, to a loss of humanity.Read more at location 1471Add a note

They are not the idols of our heart, but of our culture and society.Read more at location 1495Add a note

counterfeit god—a good thing turned into an absolute value.Read more at location 1520Add a note

At the heart of every culture is its main “Hope,” what it tells its members that life is all about.Read more at location 1525Add a note

The answer to our cultural problem must be more religion, right? Not necessarily. Idolatry is so pervasive that it dominates this area as well.Read more at location 1543Add a note

An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give. Idolatry functions widely inside religious communitiesRead more at location 1545Add a note

Another form of idolatry within religious communities turns spiritual gifts and ministry success into a counterfeit god. Spiritual gifts (talent, ability, performance, growth) are often mistaken for what the Bible calls spiritual “fruit” (love, joy, patience, humility, courage, gentleness).103 Even ministers who believe with the mind that “I am only saved by grace” can come to feel in their heart that their standing with God depends largely on how many lives they are changing.Read more at location 1551Add a note

Another kind of religious idolatry has to do with moral living itself. As I have argued at length elsewhere, 104 the default mode of the human heart is to seek to control God and others through our moral performance. Because we have lived virtuous lives we feel that God (and the people we meet) owe us respect and support. Though we may give lip service to Jesus as our example and inspiration, we are still looking to ourselves and our own moral striving for salvation.Read more at location 1556Add a note

Because of the self-justifying nature of the human heart, it is natural to see our own culture or class characteristics as superior to everyone else’s.Read more at location 1635Add a note

Paul did not say, “You are breaking the rule against racism,” but rather that Peter was “not acting in line with the gospel” (Galatians 2:14). Racial prejudice, Paul argued, was a denial of the very principle of grace salvation. He argued, “Peter, if we are all saved by grace alone—how can you feel superior to anyone? How can you continue to be racially and nationally exclusive? Use the gospel on your heart!” Peter, of course, did know the gospel at one level, but at a deeper level he wasn’t fully shaped by it. He wasn’t “walking in line” with it.Read more at location 1640Add a note

Jonah stands as a warning that human hearts never change quickly or easily, even when a person is being mentored directly by God.Read more at location 1690

And so it is under stress, in real life experience, that the true nature of our hearts is revealed. For example, all Christians say and believe that Christ is their Savior, not their career or their wealth. What Christ thinks of us is what matters, not human approval. That is what we say. But while Jesus is our Savior in principle, other things still maintain functional title to our hearts. Jonah shows us that it is one thing to believe the gospel with our minds, and another to work it deep into our hearts so it affects everything we think, feel, and do. He is still being largely controlled by idolatry.  location 1695

When an idol gets a grip on your heart, it spins out a whole set of false definitions of success and failure and happiness and sadness.  location 1703

Idols distort not only our thinking, but also our feelings. And the LORD said, “Is it good for you to burn with such anger?” Jonah then left the city and sat down just east of it and made a shelter for himself there.  location 1708

The greenery and the comfort were a consolation for the despondent prophet. But then God brought a new, though small-scale, disappointment into his life, by having the plant die. Jonah’s emotions were so raw that this new discouragement pushed him back to the edge. Again he was too angry to live. This time, when God asked him whether his anger was warranted, Jonah retorted that it was, that he was “angry enough to die.”  location 1719

Idolatry distorts our feelings. Just as idols are good things turned into ultimate things, so the desires they generate become paralyzing and overwhelming.  location 1724

Medications helped to manage her depression, but they could not get to the root of it. Her problem was a false belief, driven by an idol. She told herself, “If I cannot be a well-known violinist, I have let down my parents and my life is a failure.” She was distressed and guilty enough to die. When Mary began to believe the gospel, that she was saved by grace, not by musicianship, and that, “though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord shall take me in” (Psalm 27:10), she began to get relief from her idolatrous need for her parents’ approval. In time her depression and anxiety began to lift, and she was able to reenter her life and musical career.  location 1732

When people say, “I know God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself,” they mean that they have failed an idol, whose approval is more important to them than God’s.  location 1737

All that was happening in Jonah’s heart. Why had Jonah lost the will to live? You don’t lose your desire to live unless you have lost your meaning in life. His meaning in life was the freedom of his nation. That is a good thing to want, but it had become a supreme thing.  location 1744

His idolatrous love for his own country and his moral self-righteousness had removed Jonah’s compassion for the great cities and nations of the world.  location 1754

We are so enslaved to our idols that we don’t care about people who are Different, who live in the big cities, or who are just in our own families but very hard to love. Are we, like Jonah, willing to change?  location 1782

The human heart is indeed a factory that mass-produces idols. Is there any hope? Yes, if we begin to realize that idols cannot simply be removed. They must be replaced. If you only try to uproot them, they grow back; but they can be supplanted.  location 1793

However, the Lord cannot be added to a life as one more hedge against failure. He is not one more resource to use to help us achieve our agenda. He is a whole new agenda. Rachel had not learned this. The family that was to bring the salvation of the Lord into the future was deeply flawed and in need of grace.  location 1806

We are all looking for this deep admiration, looking for it from our parents, our spouse, and our peers.  location 1826

Paul is saying that, if you believe the gospel, the Spirit will make God’s love and blessing an existential reality in your heart.  location1885

As with Jacob, we usually discover this only after a life of “looking for blessing in all the wrong places.” It often takes an experience of crippling weakness for us to finally discover it. That is why so many of the most God-blessed people limp as they dance for joy.  location 1889

In Romans 1:21-25 Saint Paul shows that idolatry is not only one sin among many, but what is fundamentally wrong with the human heart: For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. . . . They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator. Romans 1:21, 25 Paul goes on to make a long list of sins that create misery and evil in the world, but they all find their roots in this soil, the inexorable human drive for “god-making.”115 In other words, idolatry is always the reason we ever do anything wrong. No one grasped this better than Martin Luther. In his Large Catechism (1529) and in his Treatise on Good Works he wrote that the Ten Commandments begin with a commandment against idolatry. Why does this come first? Because, he argued, the fundamental motivation behind lawbreak ing is idolatry. 116  location 1897

A good example of this is the preaching of Saint Paul in Athens (Acts 17) and Ephesus (Acts 19). Paul challenged the gods of the city of Ephesus (Acts 19:26), which led to such an alteration in the spending patterns of new converts that it changed the local economy.  location 1916

Archbishop William Temple once said, “Your religion is what you do with your solitude.”120 In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention. What do you enjoy daydreaming about? What occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about?  location 1924.  Note: What are your competing affections? Edit this note

Ask rather, what do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart? Another way to discern your heart’s true love is to look at how you spend your money.  location 1928

Our patterns of spending reveal our idols.  location 1934

However, what is your real, daily functional salvation? What are you really living for, what is your real—not your professed—god? A good way to discern this is how you respond to unanswered prayers and frustrated hopes. If you ask for something that you don’t get, you may become sad and disappointed. Then you go on. Hey, life’s not over. Those are not your functional masters. But when you pray and work for something and you don’t get it and you respond with explosive anger or deep despair, then you may have found your real god. Like Jonah, you become angry enough to die. A final test works for everyone. Look at your most uncontrollable emotions.121  location 1936

“Has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight?  location 1950

to “put to death” the evil desires of the heart, including “greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). But how? Paul laid out the way in the preceding verses. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:1-5 Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God. This cannot be remedied only by repenting that you have an idol, or using willpower to try to live differently. Turning from idols is not less than those two things, but it is also far more. “Setting the mind and heart on things above” where “your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3) means appreciation, rejoicing, and resting in what Jesus has done for you. It entails joyful worship, a sense of God’s reality in prayer. Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol. That is what will replace your counterfeit gods. If you uproot the idol and fail to “plant” the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back. Rejoicing and repentance must go together. Repentance without rejoicing will lead to despair.  location 1957  Note: Grace driven effort Edit this note

Rejoicing in Christ is also crucial because idols are almost always good things. If we have made idols out of work and family, we do not want to stop loving our work and our family. Rather, we want to love Christ so much more that we are not enslaved by our attachments.  location 1977

To rejoice is to treasure a thing, to assess its value to you, to reflect on its beauty and importance until your heart rests in it and tastes the sweetness of it. “Rejoicing” is a way of praising God until the heart is sweetened and rested, and until it relaxes its grip on anything else it thinks that it needs.  location 1981

Henry forgave his boss and moved on and was doing very well, while Kevin could not move past it; he stayed bitter and cynical, and it affected his future career path. Some people tried to help him by working on his emotions. The more sympathy people showed Kevin, the more he felt justified in his anger and the more his self-pity grew. Other people tried to work directly on his will (“get past it and move on”). That did not work either. The gospel works in a different way. It does not work directly on the emotions or the will. The gospel asks, What is operating in the place of Jesus Christ as your real, functional salvation and Savior? What are you looking to in order to justify yourself? Whatever it is, is a counterfeit god, and to make a change in your life, you must identify it and reject it as such.  location 1985

He was paralyzed because the very foundations of his identity were falling apart. He made no progress until he saw that he had made his career his self-salvation. It was not just that he had to forgive his boss; his real problem was that something besides Jesus Christ was functioning as his Savior. There is always something underneath your inordinate and out-of-control problems, desires, patterns, attitudes, and emotions. Until you find out what it is you cannot have life and peace. Kevin came to see that though he technically believed he was loved with God’s costly grace, it wasn’t an absorbing truth that had captured his heart and imagination.  location 1992

This takes what are called “the spiritual disciplines,” such as private prayer, corporate worship, and meditation. 123  location 2001

Be Patient. I believe that this process will take our entire lives.  location 2007

Mature Christians are not people who have completely hit the bedrock. I do not believe that is possible in this life. Rather, they are people who know how to keep drilling and are getting closer and closer.  location 2014

FROM NOTES SECTION:

6In the Bible, idolatry includes, of course, the ritual worship of gods other than the true God of Israel. It means to bow down or to “kiss the hand” or make sacrifices to the gods of other religions and nations (Exodus 20:3; 23:13; Job 31:26-28; Psalms 44:20-21). Anyone who does so forfeits God’s salvation (Jonah 2:8). But the Bible makes it clear that we cannot confine idolatry to literal bowing down before the images of false gods. It can be done internally in the soul and heart without being done externally and literally (Ezekiel 14:3ff). It is substituting some created thing for God in the heart, in the center of the life. For example, the prophet Habakkuk speaks of the Babylo nians, “whose own strength is their god” (Habakkuk 1:11) and of their military power, to which they “sacrifice . . . and burn incense” (Habakkuk 1:16). In Ezekiel 16 and Jeremiah 2-3, the prophets charge Israel with idolatry because they entered into protective treaties with Egypt and Assyria. These treaties offered the payment of high taxes and political subjugation in exchange for military protection. The prophets considered this idolatry because Israel was relying on Egypt and Assyria to give them the security that only God could give them (Halbertal and Margalit, Idolatry. pp. 5-6). When King Saul disobeyed the word of the Lord from Samuel and began to conduct business and foreign policy in a way typical of imperialistic powers, the prophet Samuel told him that arrogant disobedience to the Lord was idolatry (I Sam 15:23). In the Bible, then, idolatry is looking to your own wisdom and competence, or to some other created thing, to provide the power, approval, comfort, and security that only God can provide. One of the classic Protestant expositions of idolatry is found in the Puritan David Clarkson’s sermon “Soul Idolatry Excludes Men Out of Heaven” (The Works of David Clarkson [Edinburgh: James Nichols, 1864], vol. 2). Clarkson distinguishes between “External” idolatry, which consists in literal bowing down to a physical image, and “Internal” idolatry, which consists of an act of the soul. “When the mind is most taken up with an object and the heart and affections most set upon it, this is soul worship; and this is . . . the honor due only to the Lord, to have the first, the highest place, both in our minds and hearts and endeavors” (p. 300).  location 2042

the act of granting ultimate value involves a life of full devotion and ultimate commitment to something or someone.  location 2063

Advertisements