October 10 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.” ~Isaiah 44:9

OLD TESTAMENT

Isaiah mocks the idol worshippers. What good is a man-made idol? A man works day and night with all his might to create his own god, but in the end, he’s got nothing to show for it but exhaustion! Then there’s the guy who chops down a tree and uses some of it to make a god and some to build a fire. The concept is so funny to Isaiah that he mentions such folly several times poking fun all along the way. This is what people worship. Build-it-yourself gods. Silly!

Idolatry is still a problem today. We worship all kinds of things in our modern culture. We worship houses—“gods” made of wood. We worship cars—“gods” made of metal. Tim Keller writes in Counterfeit Gods: “Our contemporary society is not much different from the ancient ones. Each culture is dominated by its own set of idols. Each has its ‘priesthoods,’ its totems and rituals. Each one has its shrines—whether office towers, spas and gyms, studios or stadiums—where sacrifices are made [time, money, energy] in order to procure the blessings of the good life…” However, none of these gods satisfy.

What are you worshipping? There are a couple of ways to get at that answer. What do you do instead of coming to church on Sunday? (The average American church-goer attends church 2 out of 4 Sundays a month.) What do you spend your hard-earned money on? Money that should be offered for the praise of God’s name? I know this sounds very “prophetic” (now you know why Isaiah was so unpopular), but sometimes we need to be challenged. God waits for our worship, and when we are busy doing other things, we fail to satisfy Him with our praise (Is. 43:23-24). We have been created for the purpose of praising Him. Are we living that in our lives? If we are not, we need to turn from our idolatry and give Him the sweet sacrifices He deserves. Only in this will we experience the good life.

NEW TESTAMENT

In Paul’s letters, he is confronting all sorts of distortions to The Way. A group of Colossian Christians are pushing a version of Christianity that is salvation + rules. They’ve added strict restrictions to their faith practice in the hopes that they will appear (and be) more spiritual. There is some truth to asceticism, the denial of pleasure and/or material satisfaction, but error is almost always truth that has been twisted. Self-control is good. There are times when we must say no to ourselves because of the harm that saying yes will bring us. In fact, as self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit, it is brought about in our lives by God’s Spirit working in (and with) us. However, self-control is a means to an end, the end being an avoidance of things that can hurt us, harm our faith, or destroy our witness. However, ascetics accept self-denial as their endpoint. They deny themselves for the purpose of becoming more “spiritual,” and thus become caught up in the process rather than in the Spirit’s work.

A religion of rules and regulations fails to glorify Christ. We are not saved by our good works, and we are not ‘more spiritual’ by denying ourselves good things. The call of Scripture is to cling always to Christ as Savior and Sovereign, to guard the heart with the help of His Spirit, and to enjoy God-given pleasure with thankfulness and praise.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.