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Iconoclasm

June 24, 2012

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” -Joshua 24:15

“When neither hatred nor love disturbs our mind

Serenely we sleep.”

-The Sutra of Hui Neng

 

Procrastination, thy name is Alan.

The sermon this morning was about idolatry.  Whenever that one guy, Kyle, preaches, I always seem to go back and forth with whether I agree with what was said.  I resisted this one but I guess that’s cause it hit so close to home.  God is jealous for us.  We belong to him and he wants our worship.  He wants to provide all the things we need.  He wants us to be happy with what he provides.  Time and again the bible says that if we love God, he will give us the desires of our heart.  This is what it’s like to be passionately loved.  We don’t really have a choice in whether or not He loves us.  But we do have a choice in how we respond to it.

The preacher’s point was that idols are not just images and carvings and statues like in the Bible.  They are things we worship other than God.  Things that we put in his place.  It’s tough for me to understand the distinction between the things we enjoy and the things we worship.  It was still tough, even when he was speaking trying to illustrate the difference.

In my heart though, I know.  I see the difference all the time, it’s just hard to accept.

I love football.  I look forward to it every year.  Saturdays after a long week, flipping on the TV and watching it for hours, relaxing and enjoying it, getting riled up and yelling at the TV, it makes me happy.  This year I am gonna try to see my dad in Denver and go to a Broncos game to see Peyton Manning.  During the season, all through the week I think about the games I want to watch.  It’s on my mind daily.  You could say I am pretty passionate about it.

But I don’t worship it.  I could be happy without it.  I wouldn’t hurt anyone for an opportunity to watch it.  If it pushed me away from God, I couldn’t enjoy it.  I would have to remove it from my life.

And as I type that, I have to ask…what is it that I must have to be happy?  What would I hurt someone else for?  What do I want at any cost?  I know instantly.  It’s insidious, like all idols.  And like most idols, the thing in itself is not bad.  But it’s poison to me.  When it invades my life, God empties my life and my heart of this thing.  It’s painful.  He’s done it many times and it was necessary each time.

 

As I have probably written before, I really admire Buddhism.  One of my favorite preachers says, “if you can make complete nonsense out of any major religion, chances are you haven’t understood it.”  That’s certainly true for Buddhism.  It’s not nonsense.  There’s great wisdom in it.  Learning about it and what it teaches, has really helped me as a Christian.  But I never became a Buddhist.  It always seemed incomplete, and this is a perfect example.

Buddhism teaches that suffering of the soul is caused by desire and ignorance.  That if we want contentment, if we want freedom, we have to break the ties to the things our hearts long for.  In our ignorance we long for things that never satisfy, like pleasure, money, power.  So since we are never fulfilled, since we are full of suffering, we are filled with anger and hate and envy.

Buddhism says we only really achieve happiness by being generous and kind, which allows us to let go of our desires and also of our envy and hatred.

All this sort of sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  It is a lot like Christianity’s warning against idols.  There’s a lot of wisdom in it, a lot we can learn from it, but it doesn’t seem quite right.  It is impersonal.  We are beings who were made to worship.  To devote ourselves to something.  My love of football has never caused me pain.  It is one of the purest pleasures in my life.  It can only be this way because it isn’t the center, it isn’t the thing I worship.

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Wow!  That is tough!  How on earth can that be true?  But in my heart it makes sense.  I love my nephew.  I love him so much.  It is even the kind of love that causes suffering!  It pains me when he is in pain.  But it is the kind of love that will never come between me and God. It isn’t the supreme love in my life.

I guess the point of all this is: we were made in such a way that it is impossible to be happy if we don’t love God.  He made us to love him and to be loved by him, he constantly tells us to get to know him, to seek him, to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”  This is the hardest thing in the world, at least it has been for me.  But once he is our great love, our center, then he really does give us the desires of our heart, just like he promised.

This is what’s confronting me right now.  How to have peace in the face of a great desire. This upcoming week is gonna be huge.  I am going to talk to some people about a new job.  If it goes well it will be a very very big change for the better.  It’s important to me, and I’m struggling to have peace about it.  But I believe God, I believe him when he says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I know what I want to happen, but I don’t know what will happen.  I have a God who loves me.  He will take care of me.  That is enough.

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