(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
This morning is part 2 in addressing the issue of idolatry found in Jeremiah. You can download last week’s TB by going to our website (www.bethelkingston.com).
The key text again this Sunday was Jeremiah 2:13, and the question we asked was, “Why would the people of Israel and Judah make this trade? Why would they trade in the Spring of Living Water for broken cisterns?” Our big idea answers the question. If you are discussing this TB in a small group take some time to consider several answers to this question. Here is the one we focused in on.
Big Idea: Idolatry appeals to our desires. In other words there is an aspect of idolatry that feels good. Like eating ice cream on a hot day.
Note in our text that this is a picture of work, labour, sweat, effort, cost, and energy. What do you think they believed as they intentionally moved away from God and embraced idols? No doubt they are thinking “This will satisfy my thirst”. They are not doing this to keep busy, or to fill the time - this effort is a thirst-quenching exercise!
What are the “thirsts” that idolatry will tell us it can satisfy?
For some help on this see the following.
Control: You know you have a control idol if your greatest nightmare is uncertainty.
Approval: You know you have an approval idol if your greatest nightmare is rejection.
Comfort: You know you have a comfort idol if your greatest nightmare is stress or demands.
Power: You know you have a power idol if your greatest nightmare is humiliation or embarrassment.
(Resource: Justin Buzzard – http://www.preachingtoday.com)
Read Jer. 2:23-25 and note the sensuality of this, the indulgence of an appetite. Whatever we inhale lines up with something in our hearts, something we “need”, something we want, something we crave. Note the addictive nature of idolatry in v.25.
Consequently it can be very hard to part with, or in the case of a good thing, to put it in its proper place. It can be like taking a cookie out of the hand of the cookie monster. Desires can make us addicts.
Someone might say, “But doesn’t God want to give me the desires of my heart?” Yes, but only when God is in charge, shaping our desires and showing us how to legitimately fulfill those desires. God doesn’t write blank cheques.
Take some time to discuss this and see what Jeremiah says about this in Jeremiah 10:23.
Dallas Willard has said that the central condition of spiritual formation is removing yourself from the center.
But notice how idolatry wants to put ME at the center. ME and my desires. Again this becomes an issue of authority which we see all began back in the garden.
Think about this statement: “Idolatry’s goal is to put the unqualified in control of our lives.” The “unqualified” are our desires from within. How are our desires unqualified? What might be their blind spots, their shortcomings?
Maybe this is why Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
Is it any wonder that Jeremiah says the cisterns are broken and cannot hold water? Listen to what one person says about sorrow and despair. I think this sums up leaky cisterns pretty well.
Sorrow is pain for which there are sources of consolation. Sorrow comes from losing one good thing among others, so that, if you experience a career reversal, you can find comfort in your family to get you through. Despair however, is inconsolable, because it comes from losing an ultimate thing. When you lose the ultimate source of your meaning or hope, there are no alternative sources to turn to. It breaks your spirit. (see Tim Keller – Counterfeit Gods, xiii).
Now read Jer. 9:23-24. Aren’t these great verses demonstrating why God is the Spring of Living Water?
The following are some ways to help you identify your idols. Remember that it is ultimately God the Holy Spirit that reveals the intentions and condition of our heart. Psalm 139 reminds us to allow God to search our hearts.
1. Look at your generational patterns. Note Jer. 2:5-“your forefathers”. What idols were “set up” in your family’s home? Have they been passed down?
2. Look at your culture. What is everyone worshiping? - note 2:13 “ My people” You just had to look around to see what the idols were in Judah. What do you see in our culture?
3. Look below the surface. Remember there are external idols, but the greater problem is the internal idols that allow the external idols to exist. See above regarding control, approval, comfort, power. If we don’t deal with the deeper idols it will be next to impossible to deal with the surface idols. Agree?
Here are some further examples of not so obvious idols:
“I don’t deserve God, this spring of living water. My past, my shame, my brokenness, my failures makes me more deserving of a broken leaky cistern.” Our false beliefs become idols because they end up having more authority over us than the truth.
Enemies4. Ask people close to you. (friends, family, team members, spouse) Why?
“many make even their enemies their god… when they are more troubled, disquieted, and perplexed at apprehensions of danger to their liberty, estates, and lives from men” than they are concerned about God’s displeasure.’ David Clarkson- 17th century English minister.
One person said noise can become an idol. It serves to distract and keep one from hearing the voice of God in His Word or the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Not only does idolatry exhale God from being the top priority, idolatry will often exhale other important things from being in the right priority. Idolatry does not just offend God it can offend those close to us. Just ask a spouse whose husband or wife works too much.
5. Take the IQ test (“Idolatry Quotient”):
- Where does my sense of security come from?
- Where does my sense of identity come from?
- What consumes my thoughts? What do I dream about?
- How do I feel when…. Is taken away or if it was taken away from me?
- How do I resemble the world?
- What do I habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of my heart?
- Where do I spend my money?
“Do not love what is not to be loved, or fail to love what is to be loved, or have a greater love for what should be loved less, or an equal love for things that should be loved less or more, or a lesser love for things that should be loved equally.” Augustine (in D.K. Naugle, 51)
Finally, I would say, do not be naive to the strategy of the enemy, 1 Peter 5:8. Idolatry is everywhere we look. If idolatry manifested itself through literal statues then every household in North America would be full. There would be no room for the people to even live in their homes.
We need to realize that warfare is real and we are targets. I like what Alexander Solzhenitsyn said - he saw the corruption of the Soviet system, felt the pressure to surrender and conform but courageously resisted and said “let the lie come, but not through me.”
Not through me oh Lord, not through me!
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