Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Confession about Idols

A personal observation: The favorite idols of natural man are his fleshly appetites; the idols of church-going man are his preferences. It is as difficult to wrest self-indulgence from a person in the world, as it is to tear personal religious preference from the grip of someone accustomed to living a religious life. Neither can imagine life without these, and therefore both resist every attempt to find God as one's sole sufficiency and comfort.

In fact, one might say that the problem is one and the same; the personal preference of the person of faith is a form of self-indulgence transferred from more fleshly pursuits to religious ones.

I can assert this with the confidence of having seen, and am now seeing, that I have idols of both kinds. I am in some ways still very much a natural man, and I cannot imagine living without my self-indulgent sins. How can I let go of the fleshly sins that give me comfort? My possessions, pride, and lusts all give me some pleasure and sense of self. Can God alone satisfy me?

Can I let go of my preferences concerning my faith, and let God do whatever, however, and wherever? Can I trust God enough to have no conditions about my faith? I don't want to go "back" to certain things - but does that make spiritual growth an idol?

Selfishness is at the heart of this - not wanting to let go of some level of control or my idea of what I need - whether in sinful indulgence or religious faith. It is all the same - dying to self is the answer, and it will erase both my sinful indulgence and religious preference.


A said...

"Can God alone satisfy me?"

That is the crux of it all isn't it? More and more that seems to be at the heart of this transformation thing to me.

Do we know that the answer is actually yes? Yes, not only CAN God satify us, but God ALONE can satify us. Nothing and nobody else ultimately will. Every other place to turn is a broken cistern.

Of course, we know this intellectually. And the more "religiously cultured" we have been, and the more sermons we have heard, the more we know this...intellectually.

We don't believe it. We don't live our lives as if it is true. We still exhaust ourselves digging empty wells.

And so then, even though as I said above that the answer is yes, at the point of actual reality in our every day lives, the answer becomes...NO, God alone cannot satisfy us, because apparently no matter what we know, we don't believe and we don't allow God to....

Greg, you quoted from Romans 7 in a comment on my blog recently. The same quote you used seems appropriate to this discussion: "O wretched man that I am, who will save me from this cycle of sin and death?"

You cite selfishness. Yes. Bottom line: "We are rebels who must lay down our arms." --C.S. Lewis

pilgrim said...

"I don't want to go "back" to certain things - but does that make spiritual growth an idol?"

I think (!) it makes spiritual growth yet another area (like them all) that we can't keep our own preconceived ideas and notions out of. If I say "I can never go back to doing this or that in that certain way", it is the result of spiritual growth. It is taking the next step on the path and knowing that what lies behind was there for a time, maybe even for a reason, but to go back would be to negate the growth that brought me there. An idol to me would be to say "I will always do what I'm doing now because that is what God will always want from me."