Category Archives: sin

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


Keller on “Preaching the Gospel to Your Lust”

I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between this Tim Keller quote and the counsel of John Owen we’ve been discussing, here and here.

“Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘this disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’”

– Timothy Keller, Church Planter Manual

HT: Of First Importance

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Posted by on January 14, 2009 in gospel, quotes, sin, theology


Owen and Preaching the Gospel to Your…Drooping Heart

Last time I posted some reflections on John Owen’s advice on preaching the gospel to your lust. His remedy is so bizarre and out of place in our self-help, “you can do it” time. Rather than excusing our sinful desires away or advocating some blame game, Owen urges us to interrogate our soul with the gospel, not for relief, but for further conviction of guilt. By doing this we will know our sin for what it really is, and by God’s grace, be sickened by its bitterness.  If we are to preach the gospel to our souls, then we must look into the eyes of the One we have pierced. This is the call, or conviciton, of the gospel.

But what do we then preach to our soul that is now distraught by its sin, weighed down its guilt, ashamed of its mockery of God’s grace and love? Owen’s strategy is constant–bring your drooping heart…to the gospel! His remedy is singular and steadfast–“set faith at work on Christ for the killing of [our] sin.” He doesn’t buy into a 50/50 gospel. No! Owen realizes that although we must fight against sin and for joy, we can only do so because of the superior promises of God that are ours because of Jesus and through the Spirit. As we set our faith on the promises of God instead of the promises of our lust, we will see that “His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and you will die a conqueror; yea, and you will, through the good providence of God, live to see your lust dead at your feet” (p. 132). This is the comfort of the gospel. Owen reminds us that the gospel exposes our sin is the same gospel that transforms the sinner, and it is this gospel that we must preach to our souls every day.

Let, then, your soul by faith be exercised with such thoughts and apprehensions as these: I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and a habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of naught. Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered, but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succor and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God. But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened. Behold, the Lord Christ, that has all fullness of grace in his heart [Matt. 28:18], he is able to slay all these his enemies. There is sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance. He can take my drooping, dying soul and make me more than a conqueror [Rom. 8:37].

“Why do you say, O my soul, My way is hid from the
Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
Have you not known, have you not heart, that the ever-
lasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,
faints not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his
understanding. He gives power to the Faint; and to them
that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths
shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run,
and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint”
(Isa. 40:27-31).

He can make the “dry, parched ground of my soul to become a pool, and my thirsty, barren heart as springs of water”; yea, he can make this “habitation of dragons,” this heart, so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place for “grass” and fruit to himself (Isa. 35:7).

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Posted by on January 1, 2009 in faith, gospel, quotes, sin


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


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


Fight Club = biblical accountability

No other book outside the Bible has taught me how to fight sin than John Owen’s On the Mortification of Sin In Believers (found in a recent compilation Overcoming Sin and Temption).  As I trekked through the 17th century English I discovered theological vistas I had never seen before, and hardly seen in any contemporary books on fighting sin. (And anything worthwhile almost always ends up quoting Owen anyways!) Owen helped show me how deadly and decieving sin is…and how life-renewing and joy-giving God is! I highly recommend him.

But, no other writing outside of the Bible and Owen has showed me what fighting sin looks like in a theologically rich and uber-practical way than my friend Jonathan Dodson’s. Jonathan has done an amazing service for the church. He  distills Owen’s On the Mortification of Sin (and yes…years of Pastor John Piper’s teaching, too!) and then delivers it in a strategy aimed to keep Christian accountability, biblical.  Rather than drifting off into legalism or unhelpful “confessional booths”.

Here’s my point. If you want victory over sin and deeper joy in God, read Dodson’s article “Fight Club.” Better yet–read Dodson’s article and start your own “Fight Club”.

Here’s an excerpt… Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on August 26, 2008 in accountability, community, Jesus, sin


Are You a Worship Thief?

At its core, sin is moral thievery. It steals worship that rightly belongs to God and gives it to someone or something else. It robs the Trinity to purchase the creation. Every sinner is in some way a worship thief.

Paul David Trip, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p. 67

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Posted by on July 10, 2008 in idolatry, sin, worship