Learning and Living the God-centered life

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from Crossway blog site

How do we know if we love something too much? Where is the line between a healthy enjoyment and an idol? Idolatry is often subtle. It can creep up on us in the form of good desires, like getting married or excelling in the work place. You may have created idols for yourself if:

You are crushed when you don’t get what you want.
When that end of the year bonus you have been anticipating for months is taken from you, does it shatter your joy?

You stake your happiness on getting what you want.

All of your friends are finding their soul mates and getting married, and you can’t even find a date. Do you resign to bitter hopelessness in your singleness?

You grumble and complain when you don’t have what you want.

Are you angry with God for not creating you with the supposed external beauty that everyone around you seems to have?

You demand what you want.

Have your humble prayers for healing from a physical ailment turned to angry demands of God? Do you feel you deserve to be healed?
When good gifts (like marriage, beauty, healing, or money) turn into idols, they become terrible and consuming masters. To destroy these idols, we must put them off by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us a deep love for God that drives out all lesser loves and gives us power over our idolatrous desires, in both our thoughts and actions. Through the Holy Spirit, we find contentment.

If we have made an idol out of something good that does not need to be driven from our lives entirely, such as a desire for children, repentance comes in the form of prayer. Stop demanding that God give you children, but rather pray humbly, offering your requests to God but submitting to his all-knowing plan for your life.

Excerpt modified from chapter 4 of The Greener Grass Conspiracy.

Sin and Salvation

The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.

— John Stott
The Cross of Christ
(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 160

Killing Sin

Putting to death sin is the duty of every Christian, but no one can become a Christian by mortification. The only sins we can kill are the sins that have been forgiven by the shed blood of Jesus. Owen said, “There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.” To attempt to kill sin without Christ will only delude us and harden us further in our sins. The first priority in dealing with sin is to look to the crucified Savior, Jesus Christ.

In one of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament, the newly rescued people of Israel sinned by murmuring against God and his servant Moses. Their unprovoked sin was so evil that the Lord judged them by sending poisonous snakes into their camp. These “fiery serpents . . . bit the people, so many people of Israel died.” Then the people came to Moses, confessed their sin, and begged him to ask God to take the snakes away. Moses prayed for the people, and God gave him a strange command: he was to make a serpent from bronze and place it on a pole in the middle of the camp. Then, if someone had been bitten by a snake, he or she had only to look at the bronze snake in order to be healed. The simple act of gazing at the brazen serpent brought life and healing (see Numbers 21:4–9).

But more amazing is how Jesus used this story on the New Testament: :And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him might have eternal life” (John 3:14–15). The most important thing to understand in this first chapter is this: before you can kill sin, you have to look to the Lord who was lifted up on the cross for you. You cannot fight sin unless you have found rest in the inexhaustible sufficiency of the doing and dying of Jesus Christ in your place. You cannot mortify sin unless that sin has already been nailed to the cross of Christ. There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.
—Brian G. Hedges, Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin (Cruciform Press, 2011), 16–18.