Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's the Lie?

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:20 ESV)

In Isaiah 44 God is mocking those who worship idols. He describes a man who cuts down a tree: half of it he burns and gets warmed up from the fire, the other half he uses to create a god and bows down to it. Dumb, right?

The problem is, that's us. Totally. How are we any different when we go to food, porn, grades, video games, golf as our god and bow down in worship? We tend to distance ourselves from those "dumb pagans" in the Old Testament who worshipped literal carved wooden idols. But if we look intently at the Scripture, to our dismay we see ourselves.

Consider the heart of the man in this passage. God summarizes in verse 20 what the core problem is: he is believing a LIE. The problem area, the root of all this idolatry and wrong worship is the HEART. But this pagan lumberjack doesn't even know it. And so let's focus on "What's the lie?"

If you pick apart a temptation and a fall into sin, you can trace it back to a specific set of lies that you were believing as the temptation grew. There was some point at which you BELIEVED the lie, and that's when you made the choice. The battlefield then becomes the heart: what will you believe? God's Word confronts those lies with TRUTH, and it is a constant fight of faith to believe the truths of God instead of the lies of our idols.

Let's consider a practical example:
It's late at night after a LONG day. You really were feeling sad most of they day, it was dreary outside, work was lame, and your roommate kinda blew you off when you got home (which hurt, because you would have appreciated talking through your junk). And now it's 9pm and you hear a voice inside your head, "A bowl of ice cream would be FANTASTIC right now." You think, "No, I really don't need it, I had a piece of cake for dessert after dinner, and I don't need to eat ice cream." "But it's Double Chocolate Fudge Swirl!! It will taste delicious." And within a few minutes of this battle in the mind, you go for the fridge. 20 minutes later you're wrecked by those same familiar feelings of guilt and shame... 
Okay, STOP: let's rewind the tape and try to find the lie. When you got home, what were you feeling? Sad, tired, ignored. What were you desiring? Rest, refuge, comfort, satisfaction. You wanted comfort and joy because of the sad feelings you had during the day. You wanted excitement because of the boredom at work. You wanted relational refuge and closeness but your roommate hurt you. And it is into this cauldron of desires that a lie was spoken: "Ice cream will give you rest. Food will give you comfort. Chocolate will give you excitement." And once you began to BELIEVE these lies, you acted on them. But in the end your idol betrayed you! It did not deliver what it had so confidently promised! You've been made out to be a fool, trusting in something that has completely let you down. You feel ashamed and defeated...

Here's where the gospel becomes so precious and powerful. Yes, you failed. Yes, you are guilty of idolatry. Yes you betrayed God and worshiped His creation rather than Him. But here is good news friends: God sent Jesus to DIE for idolaters. Jesus Christ, on the cross, BECAME the sinner who struggles with food, so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God (that's a paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:21). He took your guilt, He took your shame, He took your slavery upon Himself, to give you forgiveness, cleansing, and freedom. Amazing!

Now with the HOPE of the Gospel, let's get back into the fray of "Where's the Lie?" At the point that ice cream spoke those promises to you, what TRUTH of Scripture could have counteracted those lies? Perhaps Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you REST." (ESV) Woah! Jesus will give me rest? Not ice cream? "Come to Jesus." What might that look like? Maybe spending some time in prayer, maybe getting some quality time in the Word so that you can see again the beauty of Jesus and His great salvation. And it's not just rest that Jesus promises. He gives refuge (Psalm 18:2), comfort (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17), and satisfaction (Psalm 90:14).

And brothers and sisters: the promises of Jesus are TRUSTWORTHY. He has already proved His love and faithfulness by taking our sins to the cross. And the rest and comfort that He brings? WAY better than food, porn, golf, video games, or anything else you can imagine. Satan likes to take a big helping of guilt, shame, condemnation, and emptiness and wrap it up "all pretty like" and sell it to you. But with Jesus? With HIM is eternal joy and ever-increasing pleasure and satisfaction (Psalm 16:11). Praise God!

So to summarize in 5 steps (for those who like methods):

  1. What were you thinking and feeling?
  2. What was the lie that you believed?
  3. How does the GOSPEL empower and encourage you?
  4. What truth of Jesus counteracts the lie that you had believed?
  5. What might it have looked like to believe Jesus?

Fighting for a superior joy in Jesus Christ,
The Relentless Fight