Monthly Archives: December 2010

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller

4 out of 5 Stars.

Far from being the mere practice of bowing down before a statue made of wood or stone, in “Counterfeit Gods” by Timothy Keller, we learn that there are much more subtle forms of idolatry that dominate our individual lives and culture.  With piercing analysis of our culture and the human psyche, Keller makes the argument that even if we are not bowing before a statue, at the psychological level and in the depths of our hearts, we are still bowing before things we substitute for God.  And such is the fallen nature of man, whose heart is fundamentally an “idol factory.” 

Instead of filling our hearts and delighting ourselves in the Lord, and grounding our identity in Him, and seeing Him as the only one who can deliver and satisfy, we pursue the false promises of idols who can never deliver, satisfy, and give us the deepest longings of our hearts.  Instead of turning to the Lord to meet all of our needs, we turn to things other than the Lord.  Keller argues that the only cure to the idol production that goes on in our heart is not the simple forsaking of idols, but a replacing of those idols with the Lord Jesus Christ.  For unless He fills the depths of our hearts, even should we put our idols away for a few moments, we will naturally begin to turn back to them. 

My only complaint about this book is that I think sometimes Keller takes too much liberty with his search for the hidden idols of the heart in characters we read about in Scripture.  While generally a good analysis, as in the case with King Nebuchadnezzar, I feel he took too much liberty with figures like Jonah.  Also, while Keller does take a shot at some of the idols in our country, I would have liked to see him identify the trappings of the entertainment industry as a form of idolatry.  In a book about idolatry, it would have been nice to see him show how the rampant practice of abortion is a form of child sacrifice, and on par with the offerings people would make unto Molech.  Indeed, it is interesting that for all the talk of idolatry in the Scriptures, Keller seldom makes reference to the parallels we see between our subtle forms of idolatry, and the overt kind offered to the Baals, etc.

But don’t let this lack of exposition or sometimes generous liberty Keller takes with the Scriptures turn you off from this book.  I still think it is an excellent book, and I feel personally challenged after having read it.  It’s made me question the motives in my life, and has made me wonder if those motives are not driven by one of the subtle forms of idolatry that exist in our culture.


Celebrating the Birth of the King

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  (Matthew 2:2; NASB)

There is much that is warm and fuzzy about the Christmas season that many people enjoy.  Colorful lights, exchanging presents, gathering with family– these are but a few of the things we have come to enjoy and celebrate at this time of the year.  There is also much preaching done about “the Christmas spirit” and “getting your Christmas miracle.”  All of these things are fine and good, and I gladly celebrate and embrace each one of them.

But there is one thing I’ve come to notice this year, that I’ve not noticed too much in previous years, as I have pondered the meaning of Christmas.  Something has been missing in our celebration.  That something is ultimately is the celebration of Christ.

And by this, I don’t necessarily mean to invoke the well-worn cliche’ of “Christ has been taken out of Christmas.”  Though, such is a fitting analysis.  But as the nature of most clichés, over time, the power of even what that phrase means has long been lost.  Christ has indeed been taken out of Christmas.  And by that I don’t have in mind such things as Bill O’Reily’s “Culture War”– ensuring that every town hall in America that has traditionally had a nativity scene setup keeps doing so without fail.

Rather, what I have in mind here is the loss of meaning we’ve given to the word “Christ.”  Indeed, Christ has been taken out of Christmas, but, not by liberals and the ACLU.  He’s been taken out of Christmas by conservative Evangelical Christians who have failed to recognize that the greatest miracle that happened 2,000 years ago wasn’t the fact that a virgin gave birth to a child, as great as a miracle as that is, but the fact that 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ, “the king of the Jews” was born. 

We as Evangelicals have lost the greater theocratic and messianic context and meaning of the Christmas message. The “wise men” did not endure a brutal two-and-a-half year journey across the world so that they could see a virgin give birth.  Jesus was already taking his first steps and learning to walk by the time the wise men discovered Him.  Rather, the wise men traveled from the far east to see the child who was promised to Abraham and his descendants.  They came to see the King, and understanding who He is, to worship Him.

This promised King of the Jews that the wise men came to see was God’s anointed, who according to the prophets, would bring about the birth of a new creation in this world, establishing a new kingdom that would know no end, and that would bring about the end of the present cosmic order and all the other kingdoms of this world contained therein.  And when the heavens announced this and the wise men spoke of it, is it no wonder that Herod the Great ordered the slaughter of the innocents?  For the kings of this world are instinctively aware of the threat made upon their kingdoms, and subsequently, their sphere of authority, power, and influence, when men in their jurisdiction of the world begin giving allegiance to a king other than them.  And they will go at great lengths to protect their throne, even if that means slaughtering an entire village of children in hopes of stamping out one.

You see, though there is much “glad tidings” associated with the celebration of Christmas, with it also comes a threat and ultimatum issued to all who are in this world.  In Christmas there is a celebration and expectation of hope– redemption is being accomplished.  But with it there is also comes the expectation of a Divine conquest and overthrow.  All our petty little kingdoms in this world must end and be brought into subjection to the King of kings and Lord of lords:  From the Caesars to you and me.  All of this because another King has been born, and has begun to rule and reign. 

But many, even within the Church, reject this Christmas message because we are all too happy with the way things are.  We are happy being kings of our kingdoms, and ruling and reigning them as we see fit.  We like the idea of a miracle-working Messiah who wants to bless us and do all sorts of miracles in our lives at this Christmas season.  But we don’t like the idea that God’s wonderful purpose and plan for our lives is to completely overthrow everything you and I have ever known, so that He might rule and reign from the throne of our hearts.  For such means I have to give up my world and my kingdom so that He can establish His.  In doing so, I have to resign my sovereign will so place can be made for His.

The truth of the matter is that we are the greatest of fools to reject Jesus Christ as our King.  For though we often think we are in need of nothing, yet when we look at things from God’s perspective, we are blind, cold, hungry, and naked, and in need of much.  The only way we can embrace the miracles that God wants to birth into every single one of our lives comes from yielding ourselves in complete subjection to the King whom God has enthroned.  Without such, we can never be partakers of the blessings and miracles God wants to indeed pour into our lives.  But such only comes when we abandon our thrones, and celebrate Jesus Christ as our only King.

Will you join me in celebrating the birth of our King this Christmas season?

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