Me? An Idolater?

Puritan David  Clarkson outlined thirteen means of what he called “soul worship.” What follows is a condensed version of his most helpful treatise, “Soul Idolatry Excludes Men From Heaven.”

1. Esteem. That which we most highly value we make our God; to have an high esteem of other things, when we have low thoughts of God, is idolatry.

2. Mindfulness. That which most consumes our thoughts. Thinking otherwise of God than he has revealed himself, or minding other things as much or more than God, is idolatry.

3. Intention. Goals, aspirations, our great aims in life all reveal the primary motivations of the heart and are therefore useful in the discovery of soul-idolatry. God is to be our chief aim; all other goals are to lie in the direction of Him.

4. Resolution. When we resolve presently for other things, but refer our resolves for God to the future; let me get enough of the world, of my pleasure, of my lusts, now; I will think of God hereafter, in old age, in sickness, on a death-bed: these are idolatrous resolutions; God is thrust down, the creatures and your lusts advanced into the place of God; and that honour which is due only to him you give unto them. This is unquestionable idolatry.

5. Love. That which we most love we worship as our God; for love is an act of soul-worship… Love, whenever it is inordinate, it is an idolatrous affection.

6. Trust. That which we most trust we make our god; for confidence and dependence is an act of worship which the Lord calls for as duo only to himself.

7. Fear. That which we most fear we worship as our god; for fear is an act of worship… Those, therefore, who fear other things more than God; who are more afraid to offend men than to displease God; who fear more to lose any outward enjoyment…who fear outward sufferings… who hath rather sin than suffer… they stand guilty of idolatry, that which is here threatened.

8. Hope. That which we make our hope we worship as God; for hope is an act of worship

9. Desire. That which we most desire we worship as our god; for that which is chiefly desired, is the chief good in his account who so desires it; and what he counts his chief good, that he makes his god.

10. Delight. That which we most delight and rejoice in, that we worship as God… That which is our delight above all things we glory in it; and this 18 the prerogative which the Lord chaflenges, 1 Cor. i. 31, Jer. ix. 23, 24.

11. Zeal. That for which we are more zealous we worship as god; for such a zeal is an act of worship due only to God… This is idolatrous; for it shews something is dearer to us than God; and whatever that be, it is an idol; and thy zeal for it is thy worshipping of it, even with that worship which is due only to God.

12. Graitude. That to which we are most grateful, that we worship as God… To ascribe that which comes from God unto the creatures, is to set them in the place of God, and so to worship them.

13. When our care and industry is more for other things than for God… When you are more careful and industrious to please men, or yourselves, than to please God; to provide for yourselves and posterity, than to be serviceable unto God… while the God of heaven is neglected, and the worship and service due unto him alone is hereby idolatrously given to other things…”

Adapted from: David Clarkson, <http://richardsibbes.com/Clarkson-Idolatry.pdf>, p 5-9

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The Blessedness of a Broken-down Idol

1 Kings 18:20-40

The day was a day of testing… in more ways than one. Thoughts and emotions tumbled in my mind as I prepared to surrender my daughter for yet another round of testing. “What would they find?” What if it’s serious?” “What will we do?” “Will it be painful for her?” My blood pressure began to rise, keeping pace with the fear that gripped my soul. “Father, please. Please not this. Not her. Not now.”

Half-conscious prayers poured from my heart even as I reached for my phone. “I can’t do this alone. I need my friend to walk with me through this.” Glancing at my contacts, I quickly found the number I sought. Now everything would be well! This was my friend! This was the one to whom I turned in all the stormy moments of my life! This was the one who could calm the tempest in my soul. I neither wanted nor needed any other. I waited for the familiar voice to reassure me.

Silence.

“Surely any minute now…” Silence. “C’mon. Answer. Please?”

“But there was no voice and no one answered.” (1 Kings 18:29)

Waiting through the interval—that interminable, undefined region of half-madness and semi-doubtful hope—I listened to the appalling silence of my soul’s idol. I listened and I grieved. My idol failed me.

But then, above the stillborn silence of my newly fallen god, the Father called, “Come near me” (1 Kings 18:30). And, stooping to rebuild the altar of my heart (1 Kings 18:30), He taught me to see the blessedness of broken down idols. Too long had I clung to the faded hope of my soul’s idol—to the sense of comfort and strength it lent me. And so long as I did, I would not turn to the only true Source of strength; the God of all consolation and the Fountain of ever-lasting joy. Rather, like children at an imaginary tea party I would continue serving—and being served—a pretty dream that never existed.

Yes, God often does send comfort clothed in human flesh. He often speaks with the tongues and languages of men. See Paul, imprisoned and alone, asking for the comfort of a friend (2 Timothy 4:9). See Jesus, on the eve of His execution, and with a soul “very sorrowful, even to death,” asking that His friends, “remain here, and watch with [Him]” (Matthew 26:38, ESV). But these are never meant to take His place in our hearts. It is never recorded that Timothy met Paul and Jesus’ friends fell asleep (Matthew 26:40). We must recognize the Source of comfort, even as we appreciate the instrument that brings it (2 Corinthians 7:6).

Human idols will fail. But even here we see the mercy of God; for it is often through the dusty wreckage of failed dreams and fallen hopes that we get our first real, true glimpse of His love.

I learned that day that the silence of idols is a curious thing. In it is the heard the crashing of a thousand trusted towers, fortresses we once thought strong. And I learned it is in the silence of the idols that we hear the Voice of God.