At the end of his first epistle John the Apostle appends a final thought that may appear disconnected from the rest: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”(1Jo 5:21) What are idols and how do we keep ourselves from them?
If an idol is merely a physical representation of deity that facilitates worship, then how can covetousnessalso be idolatry? (Col 3:5) Perhaps idolatry is something more than enhancing our worship with an object.
When Paul describes idolaters he provides a clue: “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations … and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image.”(Ro 1:21-23) When we don’t thank God for Who He is we inevitably imagine a different god to fit our own desires. Perhaps this is the heart of idolatry: that God, as He truly is, is insufficient – echoing the dark refrain of covetousness. (Heb 13:5) Whether we physically create a finite image of the infinite, or merely desire one, in some way we’re missing God Himself.
I think God is telling us to be careful to seek Him as He is, and not as we wish Him to be. What we seek we’re likely to find; to find God Himself we must cast off all precondition and prejudice as we pursue Him. Evidently, this is also the rare gift of God.
Perhaps then John’s ending is not so disconnected: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”(1Jo 5:20) Those in Jesus Christ, as He is, find Him utterly satisfying, altogether sufficient … supremely precious. (1Pe 2:7) There is no better place to be. In all our finding then let’s find our place in Him … and stay.
Having my heart established with grace is a goal in which I am making progress daily, looking to ensure that my heart is stabilized only in and by grace, the enabling power of God. I am no longer content to live unsettled and uneasy, nor in smug self-confidence; perfect peace in God is my daily objective.
Yet even as I grow here, a related command in Hebrews intrigues me: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” (He 12:15-6)
What does it mean to establish grace in community? How does this form, and how does it relate to the foundation of the church? Am I to discern if another is failing in the enabling power of God? And if I do, what is a godly response? What is a root of bitterness? And help me understand … profane person. And how are these symptomatic of failing of grace? What is God calling us to here? How do we go about it?
Why do we feel threatened when someone challenges our beliefs? Are we afraid they’ll deceive us? Maybe we’re afraid to discover we’re already deceived.
If we’re on a long trip passing through unfamiliar territory, and a stranger tells us we’re headed the wrong way, do we get defensive? Don’t we thank him for the concern … and get out our map?
The way of truth can be daunting. It takes a little humility to admit we don’t know it all yet, that someone else might be able to help. Taking offense or feeling threatened when someone challenges us is really saying we’re more about looking good as we travel than getting to our destination.
God says, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” (Pr 23:23) Truth, wisdom, instruction, understanding … it’s priceless. Get all you can, from any source you can, any time you can.
Consider the whole counsel of God, compare scripture with scripture; toss everything which contradicts any portion of God’s Word. Hide it in your heart and meditate on it day and night, so you can discern truth from error.
Let’s not be gullible, but let’s be truly open to thoughtful souls who see things differently than we do, and honestly consider opposing views in their strongest possible form. Let’s not be afraid of being wrong, but staying that way.
The particular text of interest is, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” (He 13:9) There are many other great verses which might also be helpful here.
What is grace? What does it mean to be established with something? How can we live this out in God? What does it look like, and how do we get there?
My thought: being established with grace is more than knowing God’s love and forgiveness, more than resting in Christ’s unconditional acceptance; it is havingsupernatural confidencethat God is transforming me into the image of Christ, creating His likeness in me, enabling me to love and obey Him. (2Co 9:8) Through the power of the Holy Spirit I access grace by faith … that is, I rest in Christ’s utter sufficiency and faithfulness, delighting in Him, being filled withall joyand peace in believing, abounding in hope. (Ro 15:13)
At times I find within an unholy discontent, a restlessness, a craving … yet I have nothing in particular in mind. This unholy thirst must be “the flesh,” that body of lies screaming ever so quietly, “God does not satisfy.” My soul has gone off on the prowl again, but not after God.
Yet my Messiah “shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.” (Mi 5:4) Soul, why are you ever out seeking when Father bids you home to feast? Turn again and drink Him in! O taste and see anew that God is good. (Ps 34:8) Draw nourishment in the very majesty of God, drink His splendor and glory into your inmost being, taste the delicious awesomeness of His Person, delight in Him as He is in all of His ways … a fathomless stream of delights … you are made for this, and nothing else. Messiah Himself does this not on occasion, but as a manner of life; never merely a spectator of God, but a constant partaker.
In soul food … nothing compares to God Himself. He says, “I am the bread of life; (Jn 6:35) If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” (Jn 7:37)“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Re 22:17)
Delight thyself in God, in meditating on Him and Who He is. Soul, never hunger or thirst again, ever. There is no want of invitation or supply. Eat! Drink! Savor unto joy unspeakable and full of glory.
I’m on a consulting project today, Thursday afternoon, just found out that the project will likely be canceled on Monday. I already have 38 hours booked this week, so in two more hours I’ll be on overtime. It seems like a waste to keep working like crazy toward our goals now. Maybe I should ease up and coast the rest of the week, or maybe I should keep pushing, hoping we’ll get more time and preparing to make a difference.
How quickly things have changed … priorities shifted … one minute pushing hard to achieve something, and the next it’s all but gone … vanished. Nothing. There’s a sudden void, an empty feeling, a darkness out in front of me. Like watching a movie when the power goes out. Back to reality. Time to think about my purpose, why I’m doing what I am doing.
Is Life like that? One day we’re active, looking forward to all kinds of things, filled with daily concerns … and then it’s over. Something unexpected happens and all goes dark, blank; a fatal car wreck, a stroke, heart attack, freak accident. Life’s done. Now what?
Solomon said, “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: but if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.” (Ec 11:7-8)
The days of darkness shall be many. Life is as a vapor, appearing for a little time and then vanishing away. (Jas 4:14) Let not death be “when your fear comes.” (Pr 1:26-7) Many have said it before but I am reminded of it again … there’s a lot going on in the screen of my life, but when the power goes out, all that will be left is a memory. Then it’s God and me, and that’s all. Is this a pleasant feeling? An unpleasant one? Somehow both? Let me so live each moment that when the darkness comes I’ll welcome it with a smile.