How the Gospel Helps us Win the Battle Against Idolatry

manatsunsetWe are Pleasure Seekers
God created us with a desire to seek joy and pleasure (Psalm 16:11, Phil 3:1, 4:4). Our lives are a moment by moment search for treasure that can bring us joy and pleasure (Luke 6:45).

Did you wake up this morning wanting raw liver for breakfast? Did you drive to work today hoping to wreck the car or to catch the flu. Why not? Because God created you to seek treasure—what brings you joy and pleasure.

God himself is the one who alone can rightly and completely meet these desires for us. When we find our joy in him we are glorifying him.

Because of sin, the flesh seeks to find that pleasure in idols rather than in God (Acts 7:39-43, Rom. 1:22-23, Eph. 4:22). Calvin rightly called our hearts, “A perpetual forge [factory] of idols.”

Whether we consciously realize it or not, we naturally act based on what we think is best for us even if what we want to do is sinful and therefore bad for us. Sin deceives us by tempting us to believe that we can find joy and pleasure in an idol rather than God (Eph. 4:22).

The work of becoming more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is one that involves discerning these idols in our hearts and by faith, applying the gospel to defeat them.

That God created us to seek joy and pleasure is incredibly freeing and ultimately helpful in our relationships
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First, it helps us see that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Satan wants us to believe that God is holding out on us and that true joy and pleasure is found in his counterfeits.

Second, it changes our purpose in relationships. Our ultimate goal is not to be morality police who spy out any vestige of joy in people’s lives. To the contrary, our job really is to help them find greater joy which involves eradicating insufficient sources of joy. Do we tell people this? Do they sense that this is really our driving desire for them? Like the elders of the church, do we see ourselves as “workers for your joy” (2 Cor. 2:14)?

How encouraging to be able to say to a struggling spouse, child, or friend that your purpose is to help him or her to find greater joy the way that God created him/her to find it. This might sound rather impractical. For this message to stick, it needs to be delivered regularly outside the heat of battle. How often do we emphasize this message to ourselves and to each other?

It’s the question that we all need to ask ourselves each day: “Where’s my joy today?” If we cannot answer, “Jesus!” and live in light of that, then we will struggle to defeat the idols that rule our lives.

Note: it is not inherently sinful to seek joy or pleasure in something. (For instance, I get a lot of joy in my dates with my wife). The problem comes when we depend upon that thing to meet our need for joy. (Do I get angry when I can’t go on a date? Or do I get depressed if the date does not go the way I had hoped). The only way for us to keep our desires in proper alignment is to believe each day that all of the joy we need we already have in God alone. If our joy is fundamentally in God alone, and we live more consciously of this fact, then we do not need to find it anywhere else. Within this context, we can truly enjoy whatever God provides as a gift from him. Further, we can still be joyful if we don’t get the thing we want. And we don’t lose our joy if we get what we want but it is broken or taken away.)