Consecrating Idols

“To worship an idol involves calling something holy when it is not holy. Remember, only God can consecrate. … When a human being tries to consecrate what God has never consecrated, it is not a genuine act of consecration. It is an act of desecration. It is an act of idolatry.”

R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, ch. 3

A few decades ago I remember vividly some of the justifications and rationalizing that my friends and I used to go through. No matter what we were talking about, if there was some doubt about it fitting in with God’s will it was common to hear something like, “It must be all right, because it feels so right. We’ll pray and ask God to let us know if we should stop, but until he does then it’s OK to keep going.” You can imagine how handy this became!

Getting a little physical with a boyfriend or girlfriend? Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

Drinking a lot when out with friends? Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

Planning on calling in sick at work because there are two tickets to a great concert just popped up? Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

And until God tells you different, you can go right ahead with those plans, right? Yet I think these prayers were actually lame attempts to hide my plans from God more than they were bringing them to God in the first place.

Sadly, this isn’t just confined to my past. I still find myself rationalizing away my decision-making processes. I am guilty of trying to consecrate my own desires, those ideas that I come up with of what I think is right, those priorities that I end up making into my own idols. Because here’s what the Bible calls idolatry:

“… your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5.)

These are the mistakes I make, I admit it, but I am so glad to be able to say that my mistakes do not define who I am.

Defined By Christ

“You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade”

Tenth Avenue North, You Are More

The Bible defines us like this:

“… you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:9-11.)

It’s pointed out here as well:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28.)

What does it mean, then, to be defined not by where we were born or our economic status or our sex? It means that we are defined by who Jesus is because “Christ is all, and is in all” and we “are all one in Christ Jesus.”

You Can’t Get Closer Than “In”

Our hope of glory – which actually happens to be the present reality that we are right and righteous with God – is all because Christ is in us and we are in Christ. You can rest on this truth for eternity, that God has given his people:

“… glorious riches … which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  (Colossians 1:27.)

Seriously, how can it get better than that? Jesus is in you and you are in him and this relationship is God’s richness in your life. And yet I still create idols, I still place things before God, I still try to consecrate what he has not consecrated. Why? It’s like Paul said:

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:18-21.)

If Paul hadn’t licked it by then, there’s no reason for me to think that I should be able to master sin. But that doesn’t mean that sin has mastered me. In fact, I take heart that it hasn’t:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2.)

Freedom from sin’s laws means freedom from sin’s mastery over our lives. That’s what life in Jesus does. God never condemns a single one his people, the people who have life in Jesus. God always loves his own.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation … .”  (Colossians 1:21-22.)

From God’s point of view (and admit it, his is the only point of view that counts) you are holy, without blemish and eternally free from accusation. It’s as simple as that.

Don’t you dare let anyone tell you different.

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14 Responses to Consecrating Idols

  1. Yes – what great insights. I’m finding a HUGE trend in the younger generation (my age and younger) to say something like, “Well, I don’t feel GUILTY about it,” or, “I’m not HURTING anyone,” or, “Does the Bible REALLY say it’s wrong?” Instead of asking whether or not the things we do are bringing us closer to God, we try to find ways around the things we just plain want to do. We aren’t looking at God’s definition of holiness; we are looking at our own comfort. This is why it’s so important to KNOW the Bible, to let it TRANSFORM us, to KNOW the Lord through HIS WORD (and not merely our feelings).

    Great post, Tim!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks Rachel. Your comment reminded me that Laura over at Enough Light had a quote yesterday from A.B. Winchester (a Canadian reformed pastor from early in the last century) which led me to comment, “It’s like saying that sin isn’t all that bad so Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t all that great.” Similarly, for people who get into the habit of saying their behavior must be right because they feel OK about it, I wonder how they view Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Do they consider it a nice gesture by God, but not really necessary?

      Tim

    • I was thinking something similar. People will do whatever they can to justify their sins. There is even the whole, “Jesus didn’t specifically mention it as wrong, so it must not be.” but how many things did He say that weren’t even recorded? I agree that it is important to read and learn His word so that He can convict us as individuals of our sin and find freedom through Him.

  2. Mary Anne says:

    I remember discussing some similar ideas not long ago with a friend and we talked about the saying (even a line from a popular song) that runs, “can’t be wrong because it feels so right.” We concluded that what they mean isn’t that it feels so right—it feels so natural. That’s not the same as right and very often it’s the exact opposite.

    There’s also Katherine Hepburn’s wonderful line in The African Queen: “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above!” Well, good luck with doing THAT, but she’s headed in the right general direction . . . 😉

    Mary Anne

  3. Lyndsay says:

    Thank you for these amazing words Tim! Our Church here is in the process of working through Luke and what our identity in Christ should be. Some amazing stuff, which I work hard to incorporate into my life (including being Transformed so that your actions from your heart reflect the heart of Christ). Well after a wonderful Sunday, Monday rolls around and I find myself in an unexpected altercation that quickly escalated. All day yesterday I was overwhelmed at how quickly the situation went from aggressive dogs, to the aggressive dog owner issuing threats of violence.(Ultimately I phoned the police due to her increasing level of violence, they dealt with her and the dogs. We have wonderful officers/officials here).

    It has still been weighing on my mind today though. I am trying so hard to live like Christ, being transformed by the Holy Spirit that is in me, and living as the new Creation I am, that when I fail (such as swearing at someone, which I did in this circumstance), I am utterly cruel to myself. Over and over I ask myself, “how did this get so intense?” and “who threatens someone like that??!!” Why did I let my feelings about my dog being attacked override my own self control?

    Your words have been a breath of fresh air: “If Paul hadn’t licked it by then, there’s no reason for me to think that I should be able to master sin. But that doesn’t mean that sin has mastered me.” Further,
    “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation … .” (Colossians 1:21-22.)

    I made a choice to sin in that moment of swearing and in my personal cruelty that demands perfection (I am, and was, an enemy in my own mind), but has Christ reconciled me to himself. My identity in Christ is ever growing, and when I fall into sin, my moment of sin does not remove the Glory of God’s forgiveness, His Grace, or His Mercy (though it is to be said that God’s Grace isn’t a free pass to keep sinning either). What I fail to give myself, God grants me with abundance.

    What a wonderful reminder of the continual renewal of each day, and our need to pursue self reflection and personal growth through God’s word and Christ’s character. Thank you for this posting today. It really was just what I needed to hear. I am now going to move forward and enjoy a wonderful and blessed Tuesday.

    Lyndsay

    • Tim says:

      “What I fail to give myself, God grants me with abundance.” Oh my word but that’s excellent, Lyndsay.

      I am glad this post hit the right spot for you and what you’ve been dealing with the last couple days.

  4. LLM says:

    I read this earlier but didn’t have time to comment then. Lots of good points Tim! Regarding your opening thoughts from when you were younger, I think some people rely on the subjective “inner voice” instead of objective Scripture. The “inner voice” could be the Holy Spirit, yet it could also be…sinful motives/rationalization, fear, hormonal imbalance, Satan deceiving you, side effects of medication, etc! We need to be grounded in the Word of God, which can reveal our true motives to us (Heb. 4:12). The Bible is a spiritual work and I think the work of the Spirit and the Bible are closely connected, and God will usually speak to us through his Word. I took this in a different direction that the rest of your post…I guess because I know those who are more focused on the subjectivity of hearing a voice, and neglect the Scriptures. But the direction you took was great too! : )

    • Tim says:

      I love your connection of the Bible as spiritual work with the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Laura. Nicely done.

      And as for the influence of “sinful motives/rationalization, fear, hormonal imbalance, Satan deceiving you, side effects of medication, etc.”, I’ve seen all of those land people in my courtroom!

  5. michellevl says:

    A fertile imagination and an unwillingness to deny myself are an unbeatable duo when it comes to my propensity to rationalize my own sin. I can spin all sort of tales so good that I am willing to buy them in order to avoid the whine that rises from deep within me when I have to tell myself “no”.

    What good news to be set free by Christ from my sins and the rationalizations that ferment them!

    • Tim says:

      There you go Michelle, summing up my whole post in 3 short sentences and saying it better than I could have hoped to do myself! It’s funny how I’m willing to buy my own lying rationalizations too, even though I know they aren’t worth a dime.

  6. housewifetheologian says:

    What always gets me is the whole “follow your heart” thing. Hello…the heart is deceitful!!! Thanks for the reminder to trust in God’s Word and not our own feelings.

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