1 Timothy 4:1-5 (CSB) Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.
The heart of man is a idol factory says John Calvin. Why so? We have a hard time worshipping God in our own nature. This is because we cannot control God. What do we do? We put our happiness, wholeness, healing, the stake of our lives into things that we can lord over and we get to control. In ancient times, they would make idols out of metal and wood and then turn right around and worship it hoping that this thing they have created will give them what they want?
When you say it like that, it sounds almost insane because it is insane. God said so:
Isaiah 37:19 (CSB) They have thrown their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but made from wood and stone by human hands. So they have destroyed them.
We laugh at ancient people and think they were so dumb. Yet, we have the tendency to turn right around and with our mouths and our actions declare:
“If I had just more money, I will be happy.”
“If I get married, everything will be okay.”
“If I have a kid, then I will be fulfilled.”
“If I get this promotion, all is right.”
Happy. Okay. Fulfilled. Right? All of those are found in God alone.
How did David pray it?
Psalms 17:14-15 (CSB)
With your hand, LORD, save me from men,
from men of the world
whose portion is in this life:
You fill their bellies with what you have in store;
their sons are satisfied,
and they leave their surplus to their children.
But I will see your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with your presence.
I mention this because what Paul is describing and warning Timothy is the idol of religion. In other words, “let me do all the right things so that God will do what I want him to do.”
Sounds insane, right? But most American Christians do it. I don’t care what your church background is–Baptist or Charismatic–we all do it. Yet, Romans 4 dismisses that foolish notion:
Romans 4:1-5 (CSB) What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about—but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Now to the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness.
We do not put God in our debt.
And Paul is not even using that strong of language.
Look at what Christ says about those who would oppress people with religion:
Matthew 23:1-15 (CSB) Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be seen by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. You are not to be called instructors either, because you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are!
So we cannot control other than ourselves. We have no god, no demon, and no idol that is going to do our bidding. We are not gods. We are not in control of the universe around us. Whether you would admit it or not, it is a burden that will break your back.
What shall we do?
Matthew 11:28-30 (CSB) “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Christ said, “Come to him. Destroy your idols who just like the Egyptian slavemasters that will try to break your back. Come to him. He take the full load of our sin and we get the light and easy yoke and burden of his righteousness. When we do that, we get to finally, completely, satisfactorily rest in Him alone.
Call us close. Keep us near. Give us repentance. Help us to be quick to confess our sins to you. Your word promised: if we confess our sin, you are quick to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Give us yourself today. We need you. Amen.