Friday, August 31, 2012

Making Others Idols

Gal 2:6 But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 

What I am about to say may upset you and shake up the way you see people, not because I have discovered some new revelation, nor in an attempt to fluff and advertise this, but because it did to me and as you'll see, all of us love putting others at "higher levels" or "holier than thou".

Before I dive into the verse, lets set up some context. Paul is writing to the church at Galatia who at this point is neck deep in works based theology. False teachers have come in and told them all that while yes Jesus is good unto salvation, you need something else, in fact in order to keep your salvation, you must continue doing XYZ, you must also, in order to finalize your salvation, do the whole believe His name PLUS a bunch of other Jewish traditions.

Enter Paul, a man marked by the false teachers as a preacher of some foreign gospel made up by Paul. But Paul, being the amazing arguer he is, already in the first chapter builds up this argument about where he got his salvation, his apostleship and his gospel.

The sources for all three, according to Paul were God through His Son Jesus Christ. He begins by saying that any gospel other than his deserves for the preacher of it (angels included) to be accursed, a word in the greek which literally means "set aside for the purposes of being burned".

Then in verse 11 of chapter 1 he identifies the source of his gospel, in verse 15 we see the source of his salvation and the source of his call. All throughout, he makes clear that he never "conferred with flesh and blood" or in modern vernacular, "spoke to a man about it for counsel". No Paul was very sure of the call God had given to him by His grace ALONE. He continues this well into the end of chapter 1 and beginning of chapter 2 where we pick up.

See Paul is telling these people, He received his gospel and his call straight from God, that no one was about to add or take away from it. So who is he talking about in verse 6?

He isn't talking about false teachers, he addressed them in verse 5, and the word "but" in verse 6 implies there has been a change in topic. Verse 6 then can only speak of the other people already mentioned in context, the other apostles and if we continue into verse 7 all the way down we see this confirmed.

So when Paul says "it makes no difference to me, God shows no personal favoritism" I don't believe he said it with a sense of pride, but instead with a sense of confidence. He wasn't claiming he was better than them, but rather, that he was so sure of his call that no one, not even the apostles were going to change his mind. Now that isn't me advocating not listening to those older in the faith or with more wisdom, but that is saying the following:

We need to stop putting men on pedestals and thinking they are some great savior, there is only one Savior. I say this because if you are anything like me, you tend to put others on some pedestal as someone you aspire to, so much so, that you begin to play the game of compare and contrast. You want their walk, you want to be "free" like them, you want to be "humble or perfect" like them. We get this sense that some pastors are just so above us that they struggle with nothing. We then get down on ourselves and begin placing bogus demands, condemning demands and observations that lead us to despair as we wallow in the fact that we aren't as "saved" as the pastor, or the leader, or the speaker.

That can't be further from the truth. I think we as Christians today need to take off our masks and begin acting like the broken, desperate sinners we are who can stand only because of the grace which God has given us. Stop sugar coating your words with amens and hallelujahs, stop acting like nothing is wrong and really begin to share with others. Don't always answer with the perfect verse, or the best quote, those things don't help people suffering.

If a man is honest, he'll tell you, just as Paul told the Romans in Romans 7, he is a wretched man who struggles with the same things you do and it is only by the reality that "nothing can separate us from the love of God" that he even stands. This isn't about advocating we throw excuses around and take God's grace for granted and justify our sin, nor is it that we throw our wounds around like rag dolls and let the world know how rotten we are, but that we humble ourselves to where we begin acting like we are in desperate need of grace on a DAILY basis, not just a one and done things.

Life isn't always cupcakes and butterflies and any real pastor will tell you, he has more problems that just speeding or taking stop signs in traffic. He deals with the same issues you do, he has the same idol problems you do. He isn't qualified to teach by any definition of man, but like Paul has received his call from above and it is that grace that allows him to stand.

Don't go running to your pastor now and yell at him, hopefully, he wasn't the one that put himself up on that pedestal (if he did then pray for him), but regardless, we tend to be the ones that make idols of other people (you see it in American Idol, Next Food Network Star, X Factor and all those other reality TV shows). We all long for the image, the acceptance, when in reality, we have "the image of the invisible God" in our hearts in whom "our lives are now hidden" and our identity is now in Christ.

This isn't about rebelling against leadership or removing the anointing God has placed on certain men to do His work according to the talents and abilities He has given them and I want to make that clear. This is about helping you and me kill the sin nature in us that idolizes and makes men, rather than God, our aim. And the beauty of making God your aim is that in Christ, you've already hit the bullseye...

It helps me fight this battle against all my insecurities....hope it helps you.

Only on the footing of free grace can the most experienced and most honoured of the saints approach their God. The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at the best. Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; mere professors can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness. - Spurgeon