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Charismatic Puritan

Right doctrine leads to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living.

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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, United States

Jealous for the truth, beauty and majesty of our glorious risen Savior.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Idolatry

First, I apologize for such a long absence. Internship is difficult and I promised my wife that she would not be neglected due to my many other interests. This blog counts as an other interest.

"Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true." A. W. Tozer

How does my idolatry begin, then? What is the fountain and what is its idolatrous imagery that creates my distortion of God?

My first thought is impotence; God is not powerful enough to intervene in my life to either give me the blessings I want-and think I deserve-or to impose upon me the punishments I fear-and know I deserve. Because I have lived a generally (and actually, very specifically) blessed life and have not suffered nearly as much as I should for my sins, I rest too easy on God's mercy and forget His wrath, or assume His wrath has no sting for me. It is in impotent wrath.

Clearly I also think God is ignorant. I fool myself into believing He is not aware of my sin, that He doesn't see or know of what I have said and done and thought: that He didn't hear my harsh word to my wife or my boastful words to my peer; that He didn't see me speeding to work and breaking the law of the civil government that He has established for my good; that He cannot possibly perceive my rabid, vulgar, violent, lustful and greedy thoughts, my sinful wants-not needs-that subtly declare, "What You have for me is not sufficient for my happiness."

Underneath all this, and probably most grievous, is that I think God ignores my sin. Whether that is because He doesn't care or that somehow my salvation through Christ makes my sin no longer an issue, I have established an idol of God as "tolerant" of sin. Oh, perhaps not in general, but certainly of my particular sins right now. What wrath is there? What consequence is there? Who suffers for this? Surely, since I am writing this, happy, healthy, unscourged by His righteous judgment, there must be none of those things for me.

But of course there is. The Cross of Jesus Christ is the place where God clearly, explicitly, violently and mercifully demonstrated His absolute hatred for my sin, His mighty wrath for its commission, and the consequence of death and punishment for my sin. There also He displayed the love He has in showing that none of us could bear the suffering for sin that we deserve so He poured it out on Himself and the person of His Son.

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in spirit." 1 Peter 3.18

On the first two points, I am neglecting reverence of the "omni's:" God's omnipotence and His omniscience, two vital attributes of the all-sovereign God. But on the last point, I'm specifically neglecting reverence of God's holiness. Surely all that God is and does is assumed within His holiness, but thinking for a moment that God, ultimately, tolerates sin makes His holiness a stained garment not a pure essence. God's holiness is the most significant attribute of who He is. It is the trisagion, the three-word name of God. These are the words that the angels and elders repeat around His throne: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." (Rev 4.8, cf. Isaiah 6.3) It is the only descriptive of God spoken three times and that is an indication of how paramount His holiness is.

How then, knowing this, can I spit in the face of God and declare His holiness of no matter? Simply because my heart, as Calvin would say, is an idol factory, were on the assembly line of my sin I generate a myriad of false and evil images of God to suit my purposes. I make Him blind, crippled, mute and asleep. More importantly, though, is how can I spit in the face of God and live? How, why, does God tolerate my sin?

The plain fact is that He doesn't. He doesn't tolerate my sin for one instant. He has an eternity of furious wrath for my sin, but He has chosen to pour it out on His perfect Son rather than me. At the Cross of Jesus Christ God fervently displayed His total intolerance of my sin and smashed all the idols my heart could ever produce by demonstrating for all eternity the consuming jealousy He has for His holiness. At the Cross God perfectly displayed His hatred for sin and His wrath and judgment for sin, but He did that by propitiating that wrath onto Christ. That act of propitiating is simultaneously the perfect display of His love and mercy. This is vital: if I do not have confidence that God's wrath is pure and perfect and complete against sin, how can I have confidence that His mercy is equally pure, perfect and complete? If I cannot trust that God completely hates sin, then I must fear that He permits sin, and if He permits sin, He could tolerate lies and falseness, and if He can tolerate lies and falseness, beloved, how can we have any trust in His mercy? I need God to be merciful!

Thanks be to God that the Cross gives us confidence in the love and mercy of our heavenly Father by declaring that the wrath that we deserve is no more, but that Christ has done what we could not do and purchased for us adoption as sons into the kingdom of heaven. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Eph 2.13) It is because God's hatred for sin is pure that we can trust Him as holy, and since we can trust Him as holy, we can have total confidence in His mercy.

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