So…..What's the Point?

Musings from a Fellow Struggler

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

American Idolatry (And the Whole World For That Matter)-Part 3: The Disappearance of Gratitude

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It seems to me that none of us can be truly grateful for anything if we think we deserve it in the first place. This is the devastating effect of pride, thinking we deserve whatever it is we have, or desire to have, and lies at the very core of thanklessness. In fact, a careful reading of Romans 1:20-23 shows that thanklessness, itself the result of rejecting what we already know about God, precedes idolatry and is one of the engines that drives it. In short, thanklessness, or ingratitude, is refusing to accept our absolute dependency upon God and failing to acknowledge His blessings. In its fullest and final form it is the denial of His existence altogether followed by the worship of something, anything other than the Creator.

For many people these days, questions like why evil exists alongside God’s supposed existence and why there is so much suffering in the world lead to a rejection of a creator God and once He is eliminated only creation itself remains as the single thing that really is. Darwinism, naturalism, scientism, materialism, rationalism and atheism are the ‘god’s’ worthy of humanities allegiance, or so say the ‘wise’ and enlightened ones among us (Rom. 1:22), so they are set up as idols in governments, universities and, now, even churches. Our culture might pride itself as having left behind the barbaric and backward idol worship of primitive tribes in far away places but an intellectual or ideological idol is just as much an idol as a carving placed on a stump and just as ‘foolish’ (Rom. 1:21).

Given these idols of humanities own making its no wonder that thanklessness is the result. To be thankful would be tantamount to admitting we are not the masters of our destiny after all, that Someone other than ourselves and the creation we occupy is the real Source of all things and alone worthy of allegiance.  I expect such an attitude from the unregenerate but when Christians become ungrateful something has gone radically wrong. Of all the people who inhabit this Creation, believers should be the most thankful of all. But Christians might still be tempted to think that God owes them something or that they deserve His sustaining power because of some intrinsic merit they have or because they are doing a series of good deeds.

The words ‘thankfulness, thankful and thanks” are translated from eucharistia (noun) and eucharisteo (verb) in the New Testament. You will notice that the root of these words is charis translated ‘grace’, a key idea in the Bible. So, giving thanks has to do with grace, with regard to both the worshipper and God.[1]To be a thankful person is to be grace-filled (i.e. thankful) in response to God’s grace; it is a well-spoken word given freely back to God whose abundant grace is witnessed everywhere around us and in us, freely given, no strings attached.

But, it is easy to give lip service to thankfulness, grace before meals, an occasional ‘thank you’ when an unusual blessing occurs, but a life-permeating, continuous sense of thankfulness is a bit more difficult, one that fully embraces the truth that we owe our very existence to God, that we are ‘here’ in the first place, living, breathing and were it not for God nothing would exist at all.

So, the point of all this all this is that being thankful, truly thankful, is contingent upon humility which seems in short supply these days given the arrogance and pomposity of far too many Christian leaders and the many who flock to hear them. Humility, in turn, depends on knowing and admitting full well that without Him we can neither be nor do anything that really matters. To think otherwise is to have already fallen into idolatry.


[1] Note that the word eucharist (i.e. the Lord’s Supper or Communion in some churches) comes from these terms.

 

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

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American Idolatry (And the Whole World for that Matter)-Part 2: Why Our Culture is Getting So Stoopid

 

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It seems to me that since human beings are created with the capacity and compulsion for worship and if that capacity and compulsion are not rendered to God, then all of us are capable of, or already practicing, idolatry.

Psalm 115 tells us in v8 that those who make and trust idols will become like them (other translations indicate the present tense, are); hearing but not understanding, seeing but not discerning, speaking but making no sense, living but lifeless. This description echoes Rom. 1:25 and its references to ‘vain imaginations’, ‘exchanging truth for the lie’, ‘hearts darkened’, ‘becoming fools’… and describes how unregenerate humanity’s entire perception of reality is false and deceptive. So, the point here is that idols are first conceived by the vain imaginations of fallen humanity and then fashioned by those whose rejection of God makes them become empty, void, and lifeless, just like the idols they make, and who now live their lives in a massively distorted version of reality (i.e. actually a ‘lie”) because of this self-inflicted stupidity.

We know that idolatry was everywhere in the ancient world of the New Testament, some cities even existing for the sake of certain pagan deities. It is also clear from various passages that idolatry and practices surrounding it were an issue amongst Christians. For example, in 1 Corinthians idolatry and idols are mentioned 4 times and then once again in 2 Corinthians. The most compelling of these is 1 Cor. 10:14 where Paul tells his readers to ‘flee from idolatry’. The verb ‘flee’ is in the present tense and imperative mood which means ‘continuously flee’ and ‘do it now’, a strict command, not a suggestion. John (1 John 5:21) concludes his first letter by telling his readers to guard themselves against idols, a rather abrupt and unexpected end to a remarkable treatise.

Given this, we need to recognize that idolatry is really everywhere, just as it was for the early believers. One glaringly obvious example is the media (TV, radio, internet, music, magazines) of which the majority is controlled by people who deny the Creator, and, therefore, promulgate idolatrous gibberish, very high-sounding gibberish sometimes (i.e. some so-called ‘science channels’ with obvious anti-Christian bias), but gibberish nevertheless that distorts (usually according to some social or moral agenda) what really is ‘out there’. Since this is the case, we should limit our exposure to the hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year relentless and unending assault on our minds and hearts by what is in essence an idolatrous world.

But, instead of limiting their exposure, a great number of Christians are taking in as much as they can which might explain the  success of so many bizarre and destructive ‘teachings’ presented as truth these days. The popularity and adulation given those who utter such mish-mash shows they have learned how to tap into America’s self-indulgent, narcissistic attitude and, by so doing, have themselves become idols to adoring followers. The emphasis on the individual, their needs, their desires, their wants sometimes to the exclusion of Christian community and the poor, sick, lost and deprived of the world really does warp a proper understanding of God’s nature and His will for all of us.

This is all very much like it was in the Old Testament: when a real prophet from God came along to denounce the idolatrous teachings of the false prophets, they were often run out-of-town because the false prophets and their followers could see, yet were blind, could speak, yet were mute, were alive, yet dead and their ability to perceive what was real and true lost to them; they had become just like the idols they served. By insisting on worshipping what they made instead of He who made all things they could no loner even recognize His word much less obey it. Tragically, the substitution of the unreal for the Real was so complete that their service to Yahweh through the sacrifices, feasts and priesthood was suspended, their temples destroyed and the people dispersed throughout the world.

Since the root of idolatry is really narcissistic self-love then whatever is thought to be true about God is filtered through this grossly distorted lens and the ‘god’ that emerges is a false one that exists to serve our needs. And, perhaps this is why many churches today, while filled with people, led by puffed-up preachers and enjoying a multitude of ministries, nevertheless remain impotent with regard to their true mission. What ‘god’ are they really worshipping?  Something to think about.

 

© W. G. Ryzek  2013

 

 

That Was Yesterday….This is Today

 

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We have an accuser, the ‘accuser of the brethren’ (Rev. 12:10) and we know him as the Satan, the Enemy who condemns and discourages thereby diverting our attention away from what God is forever doing for us through Jesus to what we have done that makes us undeserving of “so great a salvation”; it is most effective on those whose conscience struggles with memories of past sins, sometimes to the point of despair. And this kind of distraction is a constant danger because it turns us from the light of God’s word and love to the darkness that marks their absence; there are no other options.

It is important to remember that we live as both time-bound and timeless creatures and the truth about whom and what we are in Christ depends on this fact. I’m confident all who read this have had bad days replete with failures during their walk with the Lord that is fodder for the Enemies attacks. But at 12:01 AM a new day begins and whatever failures, sins committed, duties omitted that happened yesterday are beyond doing anything about; midnight is a ‘new’ beginning. But this is only the temporal side of things.

I’m always so grateful that He knew these bad days were coming before the world even began but loved me anyway. He “chose us (you and me, personally) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:4-6) This is the timeless part of our existence overarching all yesterdays, today’s and our remaining tomorrows showing who we are from eternity’s perspective.

So, is there an answer we can give the accuser to his accusations? I believe there is and you might have guessed it already. It has to do with our experience of time and God’s timelessness. The proper answer to the accuser who, in fact, speaks the truth about us (it’s never any use denying it) is “yes, what you say is accurate but that was part of my yesterday, and this is Today, not only in the temporal world but also the eternal Present tense in which I now stand. Those things of which you accuse me are already forgotten by my Father because I’m forgiven and cleansed through the ministry of my High Priest”.

 

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Hebrews 10:22 is helpful understanding our conscience when it runs amok after taking seriously the accuser’s attacks. When it does, it is an ‘evil’ conscience and interferes with our relationship with God by generating a sense of regret, fear and/or guilt about something we did or failed to do; it is faulty insofar as the memory and anguish of past sins and failures continue to grip it.[1] What we learn from this verse is that, as with every aspect of our walk with God, it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses and purifies our conscience while shielding us from all condemnation; we can, and must ‘draw near’ when the accuser comes and our conscience forgets to Whom it now belongs.[2] And we are to ‘draw near’ in ‘full assurance of faith’ which stands against and overrides what we think, see, or feel about ourselves or what  the accuser says.

In other words, what we are, our existence, our very beingness as children of God is defined solely by the Sacrifice of Jesus and the blood He shed; trusting that this is forever true, not just for others, but for YOU, is one way of understanding what the “ drawing near in full assurance of faith” really is.

We really do have to take all this ‘personally’ because our conscience is ‘personal’, the accuser attacks us ‘personally’ to create a barrier between us and the Father, so we ‘personally’ must “boldly” step into His Presence where the Light of truth and the Lamb of God dispel the lies of the Enemy.

 

© W.G. Ryzek  2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] The word ‘evil’ denotes a moral dimension as well. However, its meaning here is more like something that is faulty or broken.

[2] Those new to this blog are encouraged to read the series “On the Meaning of Mercy” for a fuller explanation of ‘drawing near’.

 

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