The first message at the 2009 Gospel Coalition National Conference was delivered by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan NY.
Title: The Grand Demythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry
Text: Acts 19:23-41
Video available here
Would Paul go to Hollywood, Harvard and the NY Times to argue for the truth of the gospel? Keller says yes!
1. Discerning Idols–What is an idol? Something you can’t have a meaningful life without. Every place Paul went, he would identify idols an deal with them with the gospel. When people were confronted with their idols and converted, their lives were changed. Is that the case in our church today? Keller argues that this reality is actually the scandal of our church today: namely that we profess Christ and yet are still enslaved to our idols…and we don’t impact the culture for the gospel.
Idols of our day: family, children, career, achievement, romantic relationship, physical beauty, money, political or social cause, moral record, your ministry success, religiosity, popularity…When you lose one of these things and it has become an ultimate thing…you want to throw yourself off a bridge. That’s how you know it’s an idol in your life.
2. Exposing Idols–(Paul said that these “gods” are no gods at all). 3 Kinds of Idols:
*Personal Idols–[Money]–Artemis was the “business idol” or financial prosperity. Child sacrifices would actually take place. Do we practice child sacrifice today when we make our careers our gods? We sacrifice our children on the altar of money. [Romance]–If you look to another person for worth or value (I’m nobody unless this person loves me), they are your idol. There will be no boundaries on your relationship…you are a under the authority of your slavemaster. [Children]–If my children are (fill in the blank),then I know that I’m worth something…living our lives our through our children, they are idols. Beware of bitterness toward God and to your children.
*Religious Idols–[Truth]–Is it possible to say that I’m saved because of the rightness of my belief instead of by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? Are you the “scoffer” in Proverbs. They are always dogmatic and disdainful of opponents. Is this your default mode? [Gifts]–Do you mistake spiritual gifts for spiritual fruit? Do you seek justification by ministry? We can make an idol out of good preaching. [Morality]–I do “x,y,z” and therefore I’m right with God or super spiritual…
*Cultural Idols–Science, Technology, Education will solve everything. There have been devastating results…poverty, racism are still around.
3. Destroying Idols–How do you destroy idols? It is a dangerous business to expose and destroy idols. Paul risked his life everyday, and it absolutely cost Jesus his.
Colossians 2:15: He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
My Takeaways: The Lord revealed certain idols in my own life. I won’t share all of them here, but I will mention one. I think I have made an idol out of wanting to be “a great man,” or “a successful pastor.” I think in some ways I have confused my spiritual gifts for spiritual fruit in my life. The Lord is so good to remind me that He is the one who will build his church, not me! He is the one who ultimately will shepherd the flock. I’m so glad that it’s not up to me to do this! I praise God for his gift of repentance, even to us pastors! May the Lord just give me the grace to be faithful and watch God do this thing at Baptist Church of the Redeemer!
Also, I want to do a better job of discerning idols in my church and in my city. Things that came to mind for me especially were issues of morality. It seems like many in our city/state are focused on their record or “report card.” We are quick to look down our noses on those who have scars in their past. Obviously, money, career, relationships, are active idols as well. How do you de-mythologize things like beauty and money? Only with the gospel! I want to study our idols, expose them and seek to destroy them with the gospel. May the Lord bring it to pass!
What About You? Any thoughts on these things?
What’s Next? John Piper on 2 Timothy 1:1-12.