Category Archives: idolatry

Is “Missional” a Movement?

After offering sharing some great quotes overheard at the VERGE conference, Jonathan Dodson concludes

Something is happening. Maybe it will result in a movement, maybe not. It depends on us…depending on the Spirit. It will require an absolute shift from mission at leisure to mission as lifestyle. But this missional movement will die out, burn out, and go nowhere if we aren’t continually brought to repentance and faith in Christ ourselves, over and over again, for our idolatry of mission and indifference to mission. May Christ be more precious than mission, but may mission be more precious than our very own lives.



Admit it–You are a Glory Thief!

Lasting change takes place when people are not only shocked by the evil in their world, but by the degree to which they have lived as glory thieves, demanding for themselves what belongs only to the Lord.

–Paul Tripp, Instruments in theRedeemer’s Hands, p. 226.


We Become What We Worship, Chapter 5

Chapter 6 bridges the gap between idolatry in the Old and New Testaments. But the odd thing about the gospels is that they don’t talk about idolatry! At least not overtly. This lack of “idol talk” might lead one to believe that idolatry was no longer a problem. Perhaps the Babylonian Exile cured Israel of her idolatry?!

Beale doesn’t buy that argument. Israel was not cured of her idolatry. She simply exchanged her old idols for some new ones.

“Though words for idol or false god appear in the Gospels, this does not mean that there is no concept of idolatry there. Rather, though Israel’s reliance on idols in Jesus’ day did not take the form of bowing down to images, nevertheless, they did put their trust in something else besides  God, bringing judgment  on themselves, as it had come on earlier generations of Israel. Consequently, they were still idol worshipers in essence, though the outward form of it was expressed differently.” (p. 162)

Re-Formed Idolatry

Even though you never hear Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for bowing before a golden calf or for offering their children to Molech, he does in fact rebuke them for their re-formed idolatry. And as should be expected Beale connects the dots, showing how Jesus appeals to the foundational OT idolatry text of Isaiah 6 in nearly all of his rebukes against the religious leaders.

“There is reason to believe that Israel in Jesus’ time was, indeed, guilty of idol worship….Israel of Jesus’ day was idolatrous because it had worshiped tradition in place of God and his living Word, and this is why Jesus applies the idol text of Isaiah 6:9-10 in Matthew 13 to the Jews of his generation. New forms of idolatry were developing in Jesus’ time. Though Israel said, “We will never commit idolatry like our forefathers or like the nations,” they committed a differen and perhaps new form of idol worship….Israel’s predominant problem was replacing trust  in Jesus with worship of human-made tradition.” (p. 166)

Traditional Idolatry

In the OT Israel was described as “far from God” when they were worshiping idols and not God (Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 2:5). Jesus says the same of the Israel of his day when he calls to task for their overvaluing of tradition and their undervaluing of God’s Word (Mark 7:6-13).

“Therefore, the words which Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 29 concern the sin of idol worship in their originial Isaianic context. Mark 7:8 affirms that to neglect the “commandment of God” and hold to “the tradition of men” is to revere tradition  over God’s Word and thus to commit idolatry.” (p. 168)

What was the result of their idolatry? Blindness. Spiritual blindness. Matthew 15:14 records Jesus’ pronouncement of God’s judgment on tradition-worshiping Pharisees: “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” The blindness of the Pharisees was a continuation of Jesus’ application of Isaiah’s prophecy in 6:9-10 and 29:13–idolaters  will be blinded, incapable of seeing God’s truth as trustworthy because they are trusting in their idol instead.

Reflect True Glory

“Israel of Jesus day was becoming spiritually dead as the human-made, stale, empty tradition to which they had committed themselves” (p. 176). This is why Jesus urged the crowds and taught the disciples to build their lives on his word, on God’s Word instead of man-made, idolatrous tradition (Matthew 7:24-27). To do this is to reflect true glory, God’s glory.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works [and how they reflect your Father’s light], and glorify your Father who is in heaven [whose image you reflect].” (Matthew 5:16)


We Become What We Worship, Chapter 4

Chapter 4 explores “The Origin of Idolatry in the Old Testament.” And of course those origins go all the way back to The Beginning…Genesis 1-3. This chapter took me for a stroll down memory lane, during my Gordon-Conwell days with Gordon Hugenberger’s “Christ in the Old Testament” and “Theology of the Pentateuch.” Those were the days! Those were the days when I began to see the richness and beauty of biblical theology, the unity of Scripture, “tree theology”, Eden as the Garden Temple,  Adam and Eve as the vice-regent kings of God. Those were the days when I cut my teeth on Kline’s Kingdom Prologue. A very enjoyable chapter!

Beale admits right up front that Genesis 3 doesn’t explicitly portray Adam and Eve’s sin as “idolatry”, but his investigation reinforces his thesis: what we revere we resemble either to restoration or ruin. He argues that the moment Adam “stopped being committed to God and reflecting his image, he revered something else in place of God and resembled his new object of worship. Thus at the heart of Adam’s sin was turning from God and replacing reverence for God with a new object of reverence to which Adam become conformed.”

So he portrays Adam in two contrasting images, from the glorious to the un-glorious.

  1. Adam as the image and likeness of the Creator.
  2. Adam in the distorted image and likeness of the creation.

It’s no surprise that Beale spends most of his time examining the un-glorious, distorted image of Adam. Adam’s sin was bound up in his failure to guard the Garden temple from anything unclean. Rather than ruling over the unclean serpent, Adam becomes ruled by it. Rather than acting like the Creator-Judge and casting the serpent out of Eden, Adam becomes like the Snake-Accuser and finds  himself cast out of Eden. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 5, 2009 in biblical theology, idolatry, quotes, worship


Anger and the Image of Satan

What’s an angry person look like?

Well there’s two ways to answer this.

First, look in the mirror. Yep, we are all guilty of sinful anger. My good friend Jonathan Dodson points out in his new article

“You don’t have to be an “angry person” to have a problem with anger. There’s an anger of the garden variety that’s often expressed through complaining, grumpiness, a cutting remark, sulking self-pity, and turbulent frustration.”

Secondly, take a look at Satan. Our sinful anger causes us to look more like Satan than Christ. When our thoughts, actions and words are ruled by anger we bear the image of Satan, not Jesus.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read Jonathan’s gospel-saturated article, Anger: the Image of Satan and I hope you’ll share this with other angry people you know.

My name is Josh. And I have an anger problem….But by God’s grace I have a gospel solution!

The gospel confronts the idol beneath our anger, calls us to soul-sweetening repentance and faith in God’s unwavering commitment to love us and make us new. The gospel of Christ reminds us that Jesus is sufficient for our failures and strong for our successes, promising us the power to change, to bear the image of Christ not the image of Satan.

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Posted by on February 20, 2009 in anger, gospel, idolatry


We Become What We Worship, Chapter 3

It may not look like it, but I’m still working my way through Beale’s We Become What We Worship. (I’m actually in chapter 6.)

Chapter 3 “Evidence Elswhere in the Old Testament”  is a biblical theological road-trip. Heres the route Beale takes us on:   From Isaiah 6:9-10 turn left to Deuteronomy 29:4; then turn left to Exodus 32; next turn right to Psalm 106:20; stop at Hosea 4:7; don’t forget to turn around and go back to 1 Kings 17 and finally arrive at Jeremiah 2:5,11.

Here are some other highlights that I didn’t share in my previous (and misleadingly titled) post.


I benefited the most from Beale’s discussion on Psalm 106:19-20 (cf. Romans 1:23) and his explanation of how the post-Exodus Israelites “exchanged their glory” when they worshiped the golden baby cow. The simple and most common option is to understand “glory” as a synonym for God. In other words Israel traded YHWH for an idol; they should have worshiped the true God but instead worshipped an idol. Case closed.

Beale argues quite convincingly that this exchange of glory is more extensive. His summary:

“Thus Psalm 106:19-20 speaks of Israel not merely exchanging the true God for a false calf god but also includes the glory of God, which was demonstrated toward them and that they should have reflected, for the image of the idol that they subsequently reflected….[A] twofold reference is being made in the theologically packed expression their glory: a reference to God’s presence, and  his glorious attributes demonstrated toward Israel and which they were to reflect in themselves.” (p. 91)

The implications are the same for us as they were at the base of Sinai: our sin, our idolatry, our worship-gone-bad will make us more and more un-like God. We are either reflecting God’s glory or we are reflecting our idol’s un-glory. There is no stasis of the soul. Thank God that he is more committed to our reflecting his glory by conforming us into the image of Jesus than we are (Romans 8:28-30)!

Christian Hedonism

Beale sees this “glory-exchange” theme developed in other passages too. His analysis of Jeremiah 2:11-13 is nothing short of Christian Hedonism 101.

“Jeremiah 2:12-13 confirms this twofold notion in verse 11 of “his glory” (i.e. “his glory” including both exchanging worship of God and the reflection of his glory)….

Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer 2:12-13)

It is “appalling what Israel has done in verse 11, and verse 13 gives two formal reasons for the appalling nature of this idolatry: (1) they have forsaken God and (2) have manufactured other gods….As a result of “forsaking” God, they are not able to share in the “living waters” that come form the “fountain” (God) from which they have cut themselves off, but now they share in “broken cisterns” that can hold no water; that is, they share in the “emptiness” of the false gods (who do not have the waters of life). Therefore, they have forsaken God for other gods and they no longer share in the life that emanates from God, but only the dead emptiness of their idols.” (p. 116)

Over the past month God has used this chapter to expose the ruinous nature of my idols, aka my “beloved sins.” By God’s marvelous grace I’m finding myself agreeing with Jeremiah, and I’ve been preaching my soul “Stop trying to find your joy, pleasure and security in these worthless pursuits.” I’ve wept in repentance and wept in rejoicing as I’ve sipped afresh from the Fountain of Living Water.  Who knew biblical theology could be so life-changing?!

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Posted by on February 3, 2009 in biblical theology, idolatry, quotes, sin, worship


We Become What We Worship, chapter 2

If you were to think of one special example, or a case study, of “worship gone bad” in the Old Testament where would you go? Well in chapter two of  We Become What We Worship Beale take us to Exodus 32–Israel’s idolatrous rendezvous with the golden calf. But the worship of the golden cow is not merely an occasional, isolated episode of idolatry. Nope. The wilderness generation’s idolatry is the paradigm for rightly understanding Israel’s future idolatry.

As the chapter title (“Evidence Elsewhere in the Old Testament”) suggests, Beale traces Israel’s idolatry throughout the OT. But he does so by “focusing on Exodus 32 and its reverberations later in the Old Testament” (p. 77). What is most striking is how the idol worshipers in each scenario are described as becoming like their idols, just as that first generation of Israelites had become like the cow. Beale notes how Moses describes them in a way to suggest they’d become like wild calves or untrained cows (pp. 77-78):

  1. They became “stiffnecked” (Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9) and would not obey, but
  2. they “were let loose” because “Aaron had let them go loose” (Ex 32:25),
  3. so that “they had quickly turned aside from the way,” (Ex 32:8) and they needed to be
  4. “gathered together” again “in the gate” (Ex 32:26),
  5. so that Moses could “lead the people where” God had told him to go (Ex 32:34). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by on December 17, 2008 in bible, biblical theology, idolatry, quotes, sin, worship


We Become What We Worship, chapter 1

I’m a few chapters deep into Beale’s new book We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, so I figured I’d share some of the wealth that I’m mining out. To give you a feel for the book, chapter 1 is 35 pages long and loaded with great exegesis and detailed footnotes–not a quick read. But it’s the foundation of the book, and we find Beale using Isaiah’s commission in Isaiah 6:1-13 as the paradigmatic (his word, not mine!) example of how we really do become like what we worship.

Throughout the chapter you’ll find how Isaiah 6 is either alluded by or alludes to other critical passages that warn of the dangers of idolatry such as Psalm 115:4-8; 135:15-18 and Isaiah 1:29-31; 42:17-20; 65:2-7.  But for now here’s a quick summary:

Israel’s problem was idol worship, and the idea of Isaiah 6:9-10 is this: Isaiah is to tell these idolaters that they have  been so unrepentant about their idol worship that God is going to make them as spiritually insensitive, as spiritually inanimate and lifeless, as the idols. God is saying through Isaiah, his prophet, “You like idols, Israel? Alright, you are going to become like an idol, and that is the judgment.” (p.47)

So there you have it–God’s judgment equaled giving his people what they wanted. On the one hand, they thought that worshiping God was a dead end street. On the other, they thought that their neighbor’s idols would lead to an “enhanced life and prosperity, but in reality it resulted in further deterioration of their spiritual life and ultimately their material prosperity.” (p. 49)

After finishing this chapter, i didn’t immediately dive into chapter 2. Instead I lingered on these texts and some of Beale’s observations in hopes of finding out what these truths might look like in my life. Here’s what I found. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 6, 2008 in bible, biblical theology, idolatry, quotes


7 Reasons Why I’m reading We Become What We Worship

Here’s 7 reasons why I’m reading G.K. Beale’s new book We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry …and why pastors, “worship leaders” and serious readers should too!

  1. Worship is the primary matter of the universe. Every second of every day, we’re worshipping something–either the one true, living, Triune God or some false god, some substitute savior, an idol.This book will help you think more biblically, more truthfully about worship.
  2. Worship is a life or death issue. Beale’s thesis is “We resemble what we revere, either for ruin or for restoration.” That means there’s no middle ground. True worship brings restoration; Idolatry brings ruin. True worship brings reconciliation; idolatry brings conflict. True worship strengthens marriages; idolatry is the root of “marriage problems.” True worship fuels hope and peace, even in suffering; idolatry perpetrates despair, depression, and isolation. I hope to test this book in every day life so that I’ll be conformed to the image of Jesus to the greater glory of God and the greatest joy of all.
  3. Idolatry is epidemic. Every time we sin, we’re still worshiping. It’s called idolatry. No one’s exempt. I need teaching to uncover the dangerous reality of idolatry, and while there’s some good stuff out there, I don’t know of a book that so clearly explains the deadly consequences of idolatry.
  4. Worship is bigger than Sunday. The contemporary church is very ignorant when it comes to biblical worship. All too often we talk about music being “worship” or that “I’m going to worship on Sunday.” As though “worship” is a switch we can flip “On” and “Off” on Sundays! Pastors, gathered worship leaders, leaders, and teachers of every sort need to delve deep into Scripture to understand the life-encompassing, life-defining nature of worship. We Become What We Worship will draw us into God’s total plan and purpose for his people, equipping us to guard against the destroying power of idolatry…and thus restoring a biblical vision for gathered worship.
  5. Understanding involves rigorous learning. I highly doubt this book will be a top-seller. Maybe among seminary students, but not real people. Beale says so much (p.34). The introduction alone warned me of the struggle this read is going to be. That’s why I had to come with a bunch of reasons why I need to read this (entire) book! However, having been super blessed by Beale’s exemplary teaching on biblical theology (especially the relationship of the Old Testament in the New) I know that the reward will be great! I need the challenge to think thoughtfully, passionately, diligently, rigorously, and prayerfully. I want to understand what the Bible teaches about idolatry. I’m a disciple of Jesus, a life-long learner. It’s not always going to be easy.
  6. Soak in Scripture. As challenging and thought-provoking as Beale’s argumentation is, I’m looking forward to soaking in Scripture. Each chapter walks you through detailed exegesis of key passages…in their context.
  7. To fulfill the Great Commandment. Jesus said the most important thing, the greatest commandment is to love God supremely (Matthew 22:36-40), and the second is to love others. I hope this biblical theology of idolatry will help me detect and destroy the idols, the substitute saviors, that I love more than God at times and that keep me from loving my neighbor.

What about you? If you’re reading through We Become What We Worship feel free to leave a comment.

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Posted by on November 14, 2008 in biblical theology, idolatry, worship


You Might Be Too Busy If…

Recently, I came across Tim Chester’s book, The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness. Well I haven’t happened to read it yet, because…well, I’m too busy! So instead I opted for the article version “Slow Down, I Want to Get Off.” He starts off with a series of reality-check questions. See how well you do…

  1. Have you ever been irritated because there was a queue at the supermarket till?
  2. Do you regularly work thirty minutes a day longer than your contracted hours?
  3. Do you check work emails and phone messages at home?
  4. Has anyone ever said to you: ‘I didn’t want to trouble you because I know how busy you are’?
  5. Do your family or friends complain about not getting time with you?
  6. If tomorrow evening was unexpectedly freed up, would you use it to work or do a household chore?
  7. Do you often feel tired during the day or do your find your neck and shoulders aching?
  8. Do you often exceed the speed limit while driving?

Here’s my score: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Not so much. How did you do? Probably not much better! Well unless you answered “Nope” on all eight, you should read the whole article.  The sad truth is that many of us (functionally) believe that “busyness is next to godliness” or that “if you’re not tired then you’re not worthwhile!”

Chester goes on… Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on October 31, 2008 in busy, family, gospel, idolatry, quotes, sin