Alpha & Omega

Idolaters Anonymous
Stealing God's Glory

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What are the common kinds of idols? How do idols affect hope and meaning? What does joy have to do with idolatry? What frees us from idolatry? How does forgiveness bear on idols? Who is Jesus? What is Gethsemane? What is spiritual warfare against idols? What is the Good News? What is Idolanon?
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What Frees Us from Idols?

Idols, whether material or spiritual, interfere with our properly loving and trusting the God who gives us all good things. We can identify an idol in our lives but still lack the power on our own to free ourselves from it. Addictions are notorious in this way. You can know, for instance, that excessive alcohol drinking is an idol in your life, but still lack the willpower to stop. You still need power beyond your own to free you from the idol of excessive drinking. This is often the case in alcohol abuse and in addictions generally.

We turn to our idols to bring us comfort or some other kind of satisfaction, but they fail us sooner or later. We need an unfailing source of lasting comfort and satisfaction to replace our failing idols. God is the only candidate for this unfailing source. God frees us from idols by replacing them with His unfailing friendship as our needed source of lasting comfort, satisfaction, and peace. God's friendship toward us is made possible by His freely offered gift of forgiveness and reconciliation toward us in His Son, Jesus. He even gives us His Holy Spirit to empower us to relate to Him faithfully. His forgiveness toward us enables us to be free of the guilt, shame, anger, and fear resulting from our wayward past and present. God proves His merciful, forgiving love toward us by means of the life and death of Jesus. As the apostle Paul observes, "God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people's sins against them" (2 Cor. 5:19). The forgiveness available through Jesus underwrites the friendship with God that can replace our idols, making them pointless and even repulsive. We are thus blessed with the Good News of Jesus.

Our properly receiving God's gift of friendship requires thanksgiving toward God. Indeed, our thankfulness for this gift, the gift that is the gift Giver, should exceed our thankfulness for anything else in our lives. A deficiency in our thankfulness here is a common obstacle to our receiving God's friendship. This deficiency is thus also an obstacle to our being set free from idols. In failing to receive God's friendship, we fail to be properly satisfied in our lives. Idols thereby gain a window of opportunity in virtue of offering a kind of apparent satisfaction. They attract us to value them in ways that cannot leave us adequately satisfied. They cannot replace the needed friendship with God. They are at best counterfeits that fail to deliver what we truly need. Given that God's friendship, in contrast, offers what we truly need (namely, lasting satisfaction, even if on terms foreign to us), we should respond with sincere gratitude. In fact, given the preeminence of God's gift, and given our desperate predicament apart from receiving His gift, our thanksgiving should give way to sincere, heartfelt praise and worship toward the living God. Freedom from idols is no casual matter. It is life made new, abundant, joyful, and everlasting.

Our idols are typically a quick fix that fail to satisfy lastingly. In contrast, friendship with the perfectly loving God is no quick fix. It is a relationship that must develop on God's unselfish terms. It brings about transformation deep within us, from selfishness to unselfish, self-giving love. Such transformation is often painful, owing to our white-knuckled refusal to let go of our idols. God's love is unconditional but, for our own good, it comes with specific expectations of us. In particular, we must renounce things (including our idols) incompatible with God's love, and do things (including what Jesus commands) integral to God's love.

We sometimes resist God's merciful love, given our selfish tendencies, including our resistance to God's expectations of us. For instance, the apostle Peter initially refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet (John 13:8). Peter wanted to instruct Jesus about how Jesus should conduct himself toward others (see also Mark 8:31-35). We are Peter. We fail to welcome the deep, merciful love offered by Jesus. In doing so, we languish with our idols, in prison. We will be set free only by the reconciling love of God as we enter in to grateful friendship with God and His Son, Jesus. Will we enter?

Washed

I carry dirt
without and within.
I bring trouble
wherever I go.
Where I am,
there is grief.

I wash myself
but am not clean.
My trouble within,
I try to clean.
It only hides
deeper within.

The One who cleans,
on His knees He comes.
He bows low
to reach even my feet.
He washes me clean
even within.
Who am I?

With mercy He cleans
and forgives even me.
He wipes away shame
and even my guilt.
He leaves me new,
as I am cleaned from within.
Renewed by mercy,
my heart turns pure.

Alive

Today is alive
with a breath not my own.
It comes to me now,
even me,
even now.
As a gift,
it comes,
this life that I breathe.
As a gift,
it comes
not from me
and I live.

Out of love,
out of love,
has the Giver breathed life.
This gift, this life,
is now mine,
even mine.
Who am I,
to have life?
Who am I?
I am loved.

Love brings me life
from the One Who gives all.
This gift has no price
it is free, just of grace.
From the Best,
life flows down,
now for me.
I am blessed.

I give thanks,
simple thanks,
in the face of my debt.
I lift praise
to the Giver of life.
For in thanks of this love,
I can breathe.
I can live.