Today Mark is picking up where he left off last night: his seventh point.
7. The doxological view of culture
Worship is not an event. It includes events, but it is all of life. Worship does not start and stop, like a church service. Worship is not reduced to music, but it includes music, because music is part of our life with God. Worship is not something done solely by Christians or religious people; all people worship something. Worship is part of what it means to be human.
Christian worship begins with our Triune God and reflects the perfect, intra-trinitarian relationships. Because of sin, we worship things besides our Triune God: this is idolatry. Luther said that most of our worship is self-directed. We are our own favorite gods.
Jesus Christ died the death we should have died and rose to give the gift we could not earn. This takes us out of the loop with our self, reconciles us with the Father, and enables us to worship God and not idols.
Culture is worship and is created as worship acts. Romans 11:36-12:2 provides us with a wonderful picture of worship.
Worship is glory and sacrifice-it is a lifestyle. Something motivates each of us in all that we do, it is our centerpiece of existence. This is our glory. Sacrifice is the way we serve our glory in our actions and priorities. Our money, our time, our emotions, etc. indicate what is in the position of glory in each of our lives. We sacrifice (worship) on behalf of that which we most glory in.
Examples: when a Christian woman wants to marry a non-Christian man, she has a worship problem. When a Christian man would rather play sports or pursue a hobby than gather for corporate worship, he has a worship problem. When someone is a glutton, they have a worship problem. All of these people are sacrificing for a glory that is not God.
What is idolatry? We tend to think of little statues in a shabby hut in some primitive country. Mark recounts a mission trip to India and all of the Hindu rituals he witnessed. A Christian woman in India told Mark she would never visit America again because of all of the idolatry in America: the stadiums looked like temples. The restaurants were filled with food. Televisions are more compelling than shrines.
The point of the story: we are more aware of the idols of others than our own idols.
Romans 1:24-25: idolaters exchange the truth about God for the lie and worship and serve created things than the Creator of all things. One truth-worship God. One lie-worship anything else. Idolaters buy into the lie. The lie goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
There are some people who worship the environment. Mark says the earth is not his mother, but God is his Father!
Some worship their pets-in Seattle, people worship their dogs. Dogs outnumber children. People dress up their dogs and call them their babies.
Some worship other people-parents, friends, boyfriends, teachers, etc. This includes sexual sin of every kind, which is ultimately worshiping someone else’s body. Homosexuality is a worship problem. Adultery is a worship problem. Porn is a worship problem
Some worship food-gluttony is a worship problem.
One problem with our fallen culture is that they want to free you from one idol by replacing it with another. “Moral issues” are really worship issues.
Every man in the audience he downloaded porn last night committed idolatry. Every woman who compromised her integrity last night for the approval of a man committed idolatry.
Even the most irreligious people are fervent worshipers.
Mark does not want us to be idolaters who want to impact our culture for the gospel.
Summary of I John: keep yourself from idols.
According to Luke, the two greatest commandments (love God and love others) are about helping us to avoid becoming idolaters. If we really loved God and really loved others, we would not break God’s commandments. We would not be idolaters.
Huxley and Orwell debated whether or not we will be enslaved by what we love or what we hate. Mark says we will be enslaved by what we love-this is idolatry. Good things become “god things” which makes them bad things: idols.
Question 1: who or what do you really love? What is in the position of glory in your life?
Mark loves his children a lot, but they can become idols. A member of his church told him they attend for their family-that is idolatry. Be a part of a church because you love the Lord, not because you want God to fix your family and thus bless your idol.
Responding to grief inappropriately reveals our idolatries: “If you loved me, God, you would not have taken that person away.”
Many Christians make idols out of their families and churches aid and abet them in their idolatry.
Question 2: what is your real gospel? The real gospel is that Jesus Christ saves sinners in his perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection. But many of us choose substitute gospels to “save” us.
Example: some single ladies think being single is “hell” and that a good relationship will “save” them. This is idolatry. Single men do this with sex: chastity is “hell” and sex is “salvation.” Someone else has become our functional savior.
The cover of every magazine at the bookstore is a picture of somebody’s “heaven.” Magazines are evangelistic tracts that are giving you steps to peace with whatever functional savior you are interested in. Everybody is looking for a savior, a heaven.
Heaven is not a place, but a person: Jesus. If Jesus were not in heaven, it would be hell.
What is your view of heaven? If it is anything other than Jesus, you are an idolater.
Question 3: what mediates between you and God? What/who makes you feel close to God? Is it your church? It is singing? Is it your pastor?
Is it your parents? Are you still following their faith? Kids go to college and reject God because their parents are their real mediators, not Jesus.
Jesus is the only mediator between God and humanity.
Question 4: who/what do you fear? Who do you live to seek the approval of?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but idolaters are people-pleasers. This is also called “co-dependency” and “peer-pressure.” Some of us live in absolute rule because we fear men who are not godly and do not have godly expectations of us. The fear of men is a snare.
Question 5: where do you give your “first fruits?” Where does your money go first? Does it go to God?
You cannot worship both God and money. To worship money is idolatry.
If you love God, you will use money and love people. If you are an idolater, you will love money and use people.
This applies to more than money. Where do you put your best? Do you give God your leftovers?
Christian collegians are notorious for substituting their studies for devotional time and corporate worship. They are studying to be idolaters.
Stages of renewal:
1. Personal renewal-Mark hopes this conference is a time of personal renewal. Examine yourself, turn from sin, embrace the good. Reorder your priorities around the gospel.
2. Relationship renewal-start treating people differently. If God can help Mark, he can help you too. When we get excited about the gospel, it affects those around us.
3. Church renewal-most awakenings in church history began will college-aged people. It spreads from the collegians to the churches.
4. Cultural renewal-it spreads from the church to the culture.
It all starts with you and Jesus. Instead of complaining about what a mess the world is in, start with Jesus and trust that he will use you to affect the rest.
Objects of idols:
Status-for collegians, pick schools for the right reason and pursue good grades for the right reason. It’s not about pleasing parents, getting the right job, buying a bunch of junk, etc. We become like the rich young ruler. Don’t make an idol out of your status.
Possessions-this is particularly a big deal in our culture. The most likely person to have credit card debt is a college-aged woman. Many collegians are racking up debt hoping that one day the debt collection fairy will show up. Live within your means as an act of worship before God. Your spending problem is really a worship problem.
Comfort-this is perhaps the idol in our culture. College students are notorious for high conviction and low commitment. The difference between conviction and commitment is comfort. College students can tell you everything that is wrong with the world, but are not willing to log off the internet to make a difference. If you worship comfort, you cannot worship Christ.
Appearance-this is behind eating disorders and steroids. Your idol is how much you weigh. You do not think of yourself as an image-bearer of God. Man looks at the outward, but God looks at the heart. Appearance in the sight of God is more important than appearance in the sight of man.
Sex-sex and Jesus are the two most popular religions in America. Jesus has three denominations: Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. Sex has three denominations: gay, straight, and bi-. About a billion people worship Jesus. Billions more worship sex. People get their identity from sex. They make sacrifices for it.
It goes bad for boys, but it goes worse for girls. The average girl loses her virginity as age 16. About 1/3 of all pregnancies are out of wedlock. The abortion epidemic (child sacrifice). STDs. 90% of women who are prostitutes were raped or molested as young girls. Prostitution is the fruit of idolatry.
Pornography-we spend more money on porn than foreign aid, all major sports, all four major networks on TV, etc. Number 1 consumer of online porn: boys age 12-17.
These are all sacrifices made for the glory of sex.
Idolatry dishonors God and destroys us. True worship honors God and is for our good.