Sin and the Power of Worship

The biblical idea of sin is that behind all sin lies some form of idolatry. The Bible doesn't come right out and say this, it's is a derived doctrine. I think it's a good one. Many times when the Bible speaks about idolatry it is speaking about worshipping objects as if they were divine. Look a little closer, however, and you will begin to see that behind every act of sin recorded in the Bible is a motivation which pushes God to the margins and places something else at the centre of the search for abundant life (fear, anger, lust, greed etc). And this is the very definition of idolatry. Behind that worship of objects (and people) is therefore the idea that the object has power to save you or to give you the desires of your heart. Therefore, at the bottom of all sin is the idea that God is not enough. Why is it that the Pharisees, the religious elite of Judaism, completely missed Jesus? It isn't entirely clear, but it seems like arrogance had something to do with it. In striving to keep the law and derive righteousness and justification by following the law, the Pharisees seemed to have developed a superiority complex which turned them into hypocritical preachers who relied on themselves and their own understanding instead of faith. In a sense, their moral striving and performance was the perfect place for the roots of evil to grow unnoticed. When your moral performance is your justification, you cannot help but look down on those who don't measure up to your standards. Further, although "rebellion is like the sin of divination" ... "arrogance is like the evil of idolatry ...” 1 Samuel 15:23 Idolatry is the sin behind the sin in the church, just as rebellion is the sin behind the sin outside the church. Though I would argue that behind rebellion lies a form of idolatry which places the individual or group as more able than God to provide for our deepest needs and longings - it's just that outside of the church, the idea of God as an actual option is less and less available. "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5 To be more pointed, arrogance and greed (idolatry) are the sins behind the biggest problems which blew up in the face of the Western Church. Lust, after all, is a form of greed which distorts love. Being money-hungry is also a form of greed which distorts generosity. Both lust and greed are therefore idolatry. And both of these have been perpetually highlighted in the Church via sex scandals and spectacular crashing and burning of many TV preacher personalities. Greed and lust are not uncommon outside of the church, but they should be unheard of inside the Church. "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10 It's also interesting that some of the worst theology I've ever come across has come from the prosperity movement within the Western-influenced Pentecostal church. "Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith ..."How true. Sin therefore can take on many forms, but sin is fundamentally when we take anything, even good things, and make them the objects of our heart's allegiance, worship and adoration. In Christian circles, it can look like using God as a divine vending machine for wealth and health, or it can look like an arrogant moral superiority complex. When we chase after things, ideas or people for our self-worth, it causes us many problems because they can't support the weight of our worship. In other words, when we make moral performance, family, individuality, money, progress, security, our country, our reputations or anything else the focus of our heart's striving, we fall short of God's glory because only God is worthy of our worship and only God can bear the weight of our worship. I think it's safe to say we've all fallen short. I know I have, and I know it's a daily battle to unseat things from the centre of my heart (though it's not my battle). What I've come to learn is that the degree to which I orient my heart toward Jesus is the degree to which I am able to have victory over sin, because it's also the degree to which idolatry is rooted out of my heart. Sure I can use sheer willpower to overcome, but it never lasts long. I always come crawling back into sinful patters, like a dog eating it's own poop. Having said that, orienting my heart toward Christ is a work in progress, and it's not easy. I certainly have not arrived and it's proven to be hard work, but I'm not justified by the effort. I am justified by Christ's work, which is completed. What's left is my acceptance of Christ's work and my openness to Christ's work in me. Jesus Christ will neither crush you or be crushed by you. I have first hand experience of both being crushed by things I put all my worth into, and crushing people (and things) whom I sought to gain my sense of worth from. I also crushed myself when I tried to gain my self-worth from my own sense of worth. I just couldn't live up to it. Nothing can. No one can. Except Jesus. The same power that rose Christ from the dead is available to all of us now. Rooting out the idolatry of our hearts is not a matter of striving or being moral. Rather, it's a matter of being open and willing to let Christ in and do His work in us (see Colossians 1:27). There is so much vying for my attention and adoration. And all of it seems good; most of it is good. There's my marriage, family, work, social justice, church, music, writing, social media, study, theology and many more things. The problem is if I don't take care of the relationship I have with Christ as a matter of first importance, one of the above things is going to get placed at the centre of my being. And it's either going to crush me or be crushed by me. My wife cannot bear the burden of being my savior, and I can't bear the burden of being hers. Neither can my church, my family, my friends or my relatives. Nothing will destroy relationships faster than if those relationships are what you look to for justification and sanctification. Only Christ is capable. In a very real way, the fundamental problem we face both in and out of the church in the unimaginably wealthy West is the same problem that kings faced in the days of old. Billions of us now have the the world at our fingertips, and we don't need a large income to get it. Out of those billions, millions of people have become self-made, their own bosses and accountable to no one. And they are speaking to us through the megaphone of mass media, enticing us to be like them or their various personas (even if they aren't intending to do so, this is the result). I adored and poured my heart into music via my favorite musicians at the expense of my relationship with Jesus for many years, and it crushed me to the point where I didn't want to even look at my guitar. I still struggle to pick it up. I did the same with work, social media and theology. This left me burned out, anxious and arrogant. All of it crushed me. None of it was worthy. But since I began actively cultivating my relationship with Christ as a matter of worship and adoration, I have found that I am not crushed by Him. Rather, I find I am being set free from my enslavement to all things. I pray the same freedom for you.

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