Archive for December, 2013

Idolatry and the Church

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Therefore my beloved flee from Idolatry. (1 Cor 10:14)

In the Old Testament God has Jeremiah stand in the gates of the temple and declare, “Do not trust in deceptive words saying,'This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.'” Because though the people praised God with their lips their hearts were far from Him. So the religious duty they performed was not worship but idolatry. For while they performed ritual sacrifice and obeisance they did not practice obedience from a loving heart. Who then were they serving? Their idols.

The Church has a new practice of idolatry – we call it theology! For theology is where man takes the utterances of God and His servants and with them creates a system of beliefs to which he bows down to worship. All idolatry begins not with the fashioning of images but with the wanderings of man's heart. We worship the image of God we create rather than the Creator Himself.

Why did Jesus speak in parables? Because to the man who is thinking in the wisdom of his own heart, God is hidden, an enigma, unknowable, and therefore everything must be spoken in a riddle. How can you explain the fullness of the glory of God, that you may worship Him in spirit and in truth? The answer is that you can’t, He must be revealed to you. Just as Jesus said “… no one knows who the Son is except the Father and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” So we cannot know the Son except the Father draws us and we cannot know the Father but the Son reveals Him.

Just as the biography of a man is not the man, so too the words of scripture are not the knowledge of God. Language is a strange thing for it can only express concepts that we know, or are capable of comprehending, but God is incomprehensible, and therefore the words of scripture can only be comprehended by an act of revelation from the Spirit. So man wishing to believe that he is saved from death and punishment takes the words of scripture and assigns meaning to them in concepts that make sense to him, but unfortunately for him the wisdom of man is foolishness to God. So what we make of scripture is not necessarily what God is saying through them. We see something of this when the disciples respond to Jesus warning, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees” by discussing among themselves that they had no bread!

The Church then, wanting to believe that they are right with God, take what is written of Christ's atoning work on the cross, and assign an understanding, a doctrine, of the efficacy of this, and apply it to themselves through their understanding but not through the reality of the power of the work of the Spirit. So they do this with all the scriptures and end with a belief system based not on the knowledge of Christ, who alone can save and instruct, but on what they wish to believe concerning salvation. From this they create notions such as positional sanctification and the substitutionary theory of atonement and teaching on the rapture and the end times and all sorts of other doctrines, until it is impossible to say a word from scripture without the hearer assigning his own preconceived understanding to it. What happens is that you cannot have a conversation on spiritual things for the values that each assign to the words are predetermined, and are necessarily, at cross purposes, for the natural man cannot receive spiritual knowledge.

When the children of Israel left Egypt, it was with mighty signs and wonders. With a feeling of awesome dread and amazement they left, while the first born of Egypt perished. With equal amazement they walked across the Red Sea on dry land only to witness the waters roll back destroying Pharaoh and his hordes. With a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, they knew they were being led by God and His hand was upon them for good, yet they rebelled against Him, for in their hearts, even with such signs and wonders, they kept hold of the life they left behind in Egypt. It was too dark a road for them to walk, for the path to life is without concepts we can understand, and it is against the forms of this world in which we have come to understand, and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God. So in their hearts they turned back to Egypt.

The Church makes concepts of salvation that it can understand, it walks according to a hope that pleases it and in which it rejoices, but the deeper darker walk of faith eludes them. To walk with Christ is a darkness to the understanding. “Unless you become like little children” you will not follow. “Unless you hate your own life, you cannot be my disciple.” These are deep and painful realities to confront, to absorb, to respond to. To walk in this world without road maps, without visible signs, by means of faith and trust alone, is a dark path to follow. But it is life and good and beautiful because Christ is with you. Christ whom the world cannot see or comprehend. Like the children of Israel who in the wilderness ate the heavenly manna and drank from the 'rock' which was Christ, so we too have a food to eat which the world cannot receive, the body and blood of the Lord.

To be crucified with Christ is not a concept, it is an active act of will to be dead with Him to sin. To hunger and thirst for righteousness are not merely words, but an ache in the soul, the very longing and substance of a soul in need of rest and food and life and shelter that will not be satisfied with less than truth and love and faithfulness. Hunger is an ache that springs from a lack, a need, which leads to a determination that must be satisfied. Jesus words are life that beckon us from this world of strife and worldly wisdom and compromise onto a path that He has trod before us into eternity and with a longing aching heart we cannot help but follow.

When Jesus walked to the cross nothing could take His eyes from the path, there was nothing that could change His mind or weaken His determination. All of His will was fixed on this purpose, to lay down His life, to open up for us the way to life. “First I have a baptism to undergo and how distressed I am until it is accomplished.” This ache, this determination, this need we see in Jesus, must also be in us , for how else shall we arrive at the same destination?

The Church walks a devious path, by trickery it deceives itself that it is walking on the same journey as the Lord. It uses texts from scripture in place of the burning knowledge of heavenly power and love to light its path. Jesus says, “I have food to eat that you do not know,” and yet we must know this self same food. We must have this self same hunger, how else will we be able to fulfill, “The works that I do , shall you also do.”

So when Paul says, “…beloved flee from idolatry,” he is speaking of a need to know true food, to be ashamed that we have ever been dull and heavy and sluggish and trying to work out our faith like scratching a diagram on the back of an envelope, but instead with a zeal and a desire too deep for words to pursue holiness with a thirst and a passion and a hunger that can only be satisfied by laying hold of Christ in such a way that we too know, along with all of the saints, what is the height, the depth, the breadth, of the glory which is Christ. For we have been laid hold of for this purpose, that we all might attain to the fullness of the stature of Christ.

How can we cling to anything of our old life if this is our aim? How can there be any of our old passions and understanding in the newness of the glory of the image of Christ? Until, or unless, we see with a longing too deep for words, the wonder of the love of the hand reached out towards us in the Lord, how can we hope to begin the journey of salvation?

It is a trackless sea we enter and in this world we have nowhere to lay our heads so, as John says, “Little children guard yourselves from idols.”