Forfeiting Life – Gaining Life

Forfeiting Life – Gaining Life
– God’s glory, Man’s worship and the Treasure –© by Peter W. Law
At the time of writing these words, I am sitting with ten national church planters in a remote part of the world, listening to a colleague teach on the opening chapter of Genesis. I am impressed by the poignancy of this moment, knowing that every one of these church planters once lived under a smothering blanket of deep spiritual darkness.  Each now worships and serves the eternal God of the universe.  Though once bound to feverish idolatrous practices and the daily veneration of demonic powers, these former worshippers of false gods are living free. They no longer live in subservience to sinister forces that controlled them, but express genuine adoration for the true God out of hearts filled with gratitude for His saving grace in their lives.But perhaps I am most struck by another realization.  While Christian men and women in this remote culture have found the truth they unwittingly longed for while in their ignorance, many in our Western world have so blocked-out the truth they believe constricts them, that they no longer retain any recollection of what has been lost.

The Incapacitating Deceit of Idolatry

God’s heart desires glory. Indeed, His heart is impassioned for His glory and He will brook no rival. He grieves to see the nations fall for the satanic lie that convinces them to exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for corruptible things. God knows that “when idolatry prevails, man’s thoughts preclude the Father. He is unable to give God glory or to reflect His glory, and in forfeiting his glory as a son, man denies God His glory as Father and Lord. Idolatry is proof that man has exchanged the incorruptible glory of God for corruptible things.” 1

Drained of all energy, false worshippers – victims to the insatiable dictates of demanding spirit fiends – fall prey to the life-extracting possessiveness of forces bent upon their destruction. Indeed, in their ruin they become what they revere. Paul the apostle affirms:  “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man… …Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie…’

2 It was in reference to the annihilation of such wicked forces that Jesus, the Christ of God willingly submitted to the cross of Calvary. In the sheer power of pure, self-giving love, Jesus stepped forward, the Lamb of God to the slaughter. Through His sacrificial death and triumphant victory over sin and hell, the resurrected Christ totally devastated the wicked, insidious intentions of Satan.  “It is finished” was His cry, and the whole world was bathed in the benevolence of His victory over the prince of the power of the air.The Absurd Nature of Idolatry

God passionately desires the pure worship of His people, untainted by an illegitimate affection shared with false gods. But the People of Israel exchanged their Glory. Exodus 32:1-4 reveals the incredulous nature of Israel’s actions at the foot of Mount Sinai during Moses’ absence, when, by forming the golden calf, they foolishly exchanged their glory. The Psalmist casts a blinding spotlight on the preposterous nature of their idolatry when he writes of Israel: “They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molded image. Thus they changed their glory into the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot their Savior…”

3 Israel, who was kept by God’s mercy, graced by His benevolence and brooded-over by His paternal heart as Father, exchanged the true God for false gods.The actions of Israel were thoroughly ludicrous. When they exchanged God for the golden idol, they exchanged their glory. God Himself was their glory. They exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that munches grass – the true God for a golden idol. Jeremiah’s record of Yahweh’s attitude to this absurdity reveals His acute sense of rejection: “Has a nation ever changed its gods? … But my people have exchanged their Glory” – Yahweh – “for worthless idols.” 4  They faithlessly rejected their benevolent Father and in so doing forfeited their true Treasure.

The Glory of God and His Desire to DeliverGod’s heart desires glory – worship. That is precisely why His heart exhibits abhorrence towards Idolatry. He longs to deliver the nations from their obsession with false gods because He knows what they have forfeited. This is what so grieved God and the heart of God in Moses at the foot of the mountain. And perhaps the saddest part of all is that the people of Israel didn’t even know what they had forfeited. God, Who loved them with an everlasting love, delivered them from the bondages of Egypt, demonstrated His presence during their sojourn and provided their every daily need, is not to be compared with some golden image. That is a totally absurd, thoroughly inadequate representation of the glorious God of heaven. How could a golden lump deliver them, provide for them, watch over them, Father them as Yahweh had done so consistently and faithfully? How could this mere object of man’s imagining ever compare with the fearfully awesome, personal, gracious, self-communicating, righteous God of creation Whom Moses had just encountered on the summit of the mountain?  His immediate reaction of throwing down the tablets at the entrance to the camp was his response to the incredulous nature of their attempt to find comfort in the freshly minted idol.

To find our comfort and security in any object, ambition, place or person other than God our Father, is to bestow “ABBA” status on that substitute god. Satan would like to convince you that He is able to adequately Father you. But God, Who will brook no rival, responds, and His pronouncement is clarion: “I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.” 5 God’s glory is His presence; it is His power, His unfailing character. God Himself is the glory of His people.

In rejecting Yahweh over false gods, the people of Israel cut themselves off from the Source of life, and from the prospect of reflecting that same glory before a watching world. Instead, their lives would merely mirror the inglorious nature of the idols to which they were in debilitating bondage. By obsessing over their idols, the people of Israel forfeited the treasure of God Himself, and settled for a miserable, life-draining counterfeit.

The tragic reality of our own day is that men and women have acted in the very same way. In their insatiable desire for autonomy, they have created gods in their own image – made a god of self and of worldly possessions and ambitions. Furthermore, a prevailing abhorrence for the truth contained in His Word is ubiquitous. In some quarters of this post-Christian world in which we live, there no longer exists any residual memory of the God we have discarded. The new characteristic of the age, to set aside God’s truth in an effort to deny His presence and to avoid all accountability external to self, has crept like a virus through the thinking and lifestyle in many quarters of our society. R. Albert Mohler Jr. writes:

“In a truly post-Christian age, the saddest loss of all is a loss of the memory of what was lost. The saddest aspect of our dawning post-Christian age is that there is no longer even a memory of what was discarded and what was denied and rejected. Having lived for so long on the memory of Christian truth, without the substance of Christian truth, the culture now grows hostile to that truth.”  6  Obsessed with the desire to be liberated from what they have determined to be the oppressive nature of truth, men and women confirm themselves in the very bondage from which they seek to flee.

God longs to deliver our neighbors from this obsession – to redeem, restore, and reconcile the nations to His principles, and to return the heart of man to His truth and to Himself as God and Father. This is the message we are called to faithfully take and tell to our world.

1 ABBA, My Father, by Peter W. Law, Challenge Publications, 2007, p.72.
2 See Romans 1:22-25.

3 Psalm106: 19-21a.
4 Jeremiah 2:11.
5 Isaiah 42:8.
6 The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness.  [Multnomah Books, 2009], p. 164.

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