Particularly potent this week, in the spirit of the new year’s storied confluence of resolutions, relapses and renunciations, this morning’s devotion comes from R-J Heijmen. Our regularly scheduled blogging resumes tomorrow:
Make us a God who will go before us.
John Calvin famously said that the human heart is an idol factory. Although we may deny it, we are desperate for someone or something to tell us what to do, how to live. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the books that people around you are reading the next time you’re on a train or airplane. I guarantee that a majority will be of the self-help variety, instructions for the inner idol.
Yet, strangely, when we are told what to do, we either ignore the command, fulfill it begrudgingly (and fleetingly) or, perhaps most often, do the exact opposite. Instruction doesn’t work, even when it’s disguised as self-help, or the latest fad, “life coaching.”
Such was the case with Israel, who, after receiving the Ten Commandments, the ultimate “to-do (or perhaps not-do) list” from the ultimate Source, almost immediately did the exact opposite, breaking the First and Greatest Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20.3), by forging and worshipping a cow made of gold. Commandments don’t work, whether they come from an idol, a therapeutic book, or God Himself.
The truth is that, although we may think that we need some good teaching, some good instruction, what we actually need is a Savior. The search for a better teaching, a better idol, a better self-help method is actually a defense mechanism. A defense against the truth about our sinful, rebellious selves and a defense against the God who did not come to instruct us, but to save us. Approaching Jesus as Teacher, rather than Savior, is the wrong course, as the so-called “rich young ruler” discovered (Matthew 19.16-23). We simply can’t follow the instructions and thus, like him, we end up walking away, moving on to the next idol, the next teaching, the next strategy.
Jesus comes to silence the idols, to debunk the myth that we can help ourselves, to cancel the commandments. He does not tell us what to do but rather bids us to trust that He has done and will do it all. “This is the work of God,” He says, “to believe in the One whom He has sent” (John 6.29)