From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols…Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God. (John Calvin, Institutes, 1.11.8)
We naturally make idols in our hearts. We naturally turn from the true God and worship replicas of our own likeness and image. We naturally suppress the truth of God’s self-disclosure in general revelation. We naturally are lovers of self: meaning, we are self-absorbed, self-seduced, self-interested, self-intoxicated . . . downright selfish beings.
Yes, we do all this naturally. Naturally as in our postlapsarian reality. This was not God’s original design. But, it is now our nature. It is all of our nature now, since the fall of our first parents. No one, not a single soul, has been immune. Not one has been exempt from its curse. Not one person has been untouched by its stench.
We are all guilty before God. We are all guilty naturally. We are fallen. We are sinners by nature and volition. We are wretched, wicked, vile, contemptuous, sinful, rebellious and defiant against the Holy, Eternal, Creator God.
And so, we foolishly, suppress the truth of God’s revelation and construct idols in our hearts. Idols which are fashioned in our likeness and likes. We form and fashion a god in which we can be proud and in one we can placate. We build an idol in which we can boast and in which we can boss.
Ultimately, our greatest natural idol stares back at us every morning in the mirror. We bow at the idol and altar of “I”. We do this naturally. We do it because our will always acts according to our nature. Jesus once quipped, a bad tree cannot produce good fruit!
Recently, I began a sermon series at a local church, where I am now serving as interim pastor, entitled: Who is This King of Glory? The title is taken from Ps. 24. It is an important question. It is a pertinent question. It is a thought-provoking question.
We live in a day and age where identity is sought for, as the old Country and Western ballard goes, in all the wrong places. In order to know who I am. In order to know who I am to be as a man, husband, father, minister . . . etc. I must first have an understanding of who God is. In order to know what the church is to be. In order to know and understand its mission and purpose, I must first have an understanding of who God is.
God gives definition to my existence (not the other way around!). God, as Creator and Sovereign Lord, gives definition to gender and human sexuality. He gives definition to all things. Without him, nothing is able to make sense. Without him, there is no sense.
Even when we ascribe attributes to God (according to biblical revelation) we must remember that those attributes do not define God . . . he defines them! So, eternality does not define God; rather, God gives definition to what it means to be eternal. Holiness does not define who God is; rather, God defines what holiness is.
Calvin was right. In our own nature (which is fallen and sinful) our hearts, besides being desperately wicked, are “idol factories”. Because of our sin and rebelliousness against God, we fabricate false gods and construct idols for our convenience and which are well within our control.
But none of these is the true King of Glory!
Lord willing, in the next several posts we will consider some of these false conceptions of who God is. We will see the bit of truth (though twisted and perverted) each presents. We will also consider the deception each perpetrates. And finally, we will consider Scripture passages which show the inadequacy of each false conception.
The list I will use is in my own words, though some are in common with other sources. As we list each, I will point those out, at least the ones of which I am aware.
My prayer is that this will help us to see the true King of Glory.
Why does it matter? It matters because it is the heart of theology. Or, as some would say, it is theology proper. And, theology matters! Your theology (whether biblical or not, whether strong or weak, whether orthodox or not) affects the life you lead. Your theology affects how you live on Monday at 2pm. It affects what you allow yourself to think about at 9pm on Wednesday evening. It affects who you are at 10am on Friday morning.
Theology proper is our thoughts of God himself. If God has revealed himself, which Scripture teaches he has, then we can (and do!) know him. Theology then, as has been said, is our thinking God’s thoughts after him. At minimal, it is our thinking about God. And this thought will have a profound effect upon us. The more biblical, the more transforming it will be. The more and greater change will be evidenced in our lives.
So, I invite you to come on this journey. I invite you to contemplate with the psalmist, Who is this King of Glory? Then, once we see him as he is, the question will be if he is the One we worship and adore? Or, has our worship been wasted on a counterfeit, on an idol that is illusory and fictitious?
Psalm 24 (ESV):
The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle!
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah