A few Snippets from Ryle and Duguid

Those who feel abandoned by God find that the pull of seeking out other gods increases, other gods whom they think can deliver the sense of security and significance they seek. If the Lord cannot deliver, why not try Marduk or one of the other Babylonian gods? Their hearts are torn between two loyalties, and they are attracted by the blessings that the idols seem to promise, the greener grass they offer, the more powerful magic they seem to contain.[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 183–184.

Much of the counseling within the church of our day fails to recognize the key significance of the idolatries that remain within our hearts. On the one hand, there is a moralizing approach that focuses purely on the level of behavior. This approach says, “Your problem is that your anger (or lust, or worry, or whatever) is sin. Repent and change your behavior! If you would just do what is right, then good feelings will follow.” The problem with this approach is that in focusing on behavior it doesn’t go deep enough. It doesn’t recognize the reason for the behavior: the idols and false beliefs that are driving it. The reason why this particular person sins in this particular way is because there are idols and false beliefs in his or her life that say, “By doing this, you will gain what is really important and meaningful in life.”

On the other hand, there is a psychologizing approach to counseling that says, “Your basic problem is that you don’t see that God loves you and accepts you just as you are. If you could just feel good about yourself, right actions will follow.” This approach focuses on the feelings rather than the behavior, but still doesn’t go deep enough. It doesn’t recognize that behind the bad feelings lies an idolatry, a belief that “even if God loves me, yet while I don’t have this, I’m not a worthwhile person.” Both approaches fail to see the sin behind the sin, the fundamental issue of idolatry.

A better approach is to recognize that driving both our behaviors and our feelings are deep-seated heart idolatries. Our fundamental problem lies in looking to something besides God for our happiness. This is not a new observation. The church father Tertullian put it this way:

The principle crime of the human race, the highest guilt charged upon the world, the whole procuring cause of judgment, is idolatry. For, although each single fault retains its own proper feature, although it is destined to judgment under its own proper name also, yet it is marked off under the general account of idolatry … . Thus it comes to pass, that in idolatry all crimes are detected and in all crimes idolatry.[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 188–189.

The difference between Christians and religiously minded idolaters is that Christians repent not only of their sins but also of their very best deeds, their best righteousness, in order to receive in its place the righteousness of Christ, to which they cling single-heartedly.[1]

[1] Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 190.

Let us mark this well. It is high time to dismiss from our minds those loose ideas about idolatry, which are common in this day. We must not think, as many do, that there are only two sorts of idolatry,—the spiritual idolatry of the man who loves his wife, or child, or money more than God; and the open, gross idolatry of the man who bows down to an image of wood, or metal, or stone, because he knows no better. We may rest assured that idolatry is a sin which occupies a far wider field than this. It is not merely a thing in Hindostan, that we may hear of and pity at missionary meetings; nor yet is it a thing confined to our own hearts, that we may confess before the Mercy-seat upon our knees. It is a pestilence that walks in the Church of Christ to a much greater extent than many suppose. It is an evil that, like the man of sin, “sits in the very temple of God.” (2 Thess. 2:4.)[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (London: William Hunt and Company, 1885), 402.

[MY NOTE] Ryle edges upon something which is important to ponder re: Is it possible, since the Believers in toto are now the Temple of God – may what is said here apply to professing Christians setting up self as supreme? Many in the Church even today make Christianity all about God serving them, meeting their desires and accomplishing their personal goals. The preaching and teaching of the Church today in terms of self-actualization and realization is nothing less than we, worshiping self. This may well be the great rebellion. We, may well be the “man of lawlessness” – serving self and our self-interests above everything else. We bow to no law but self. We own no truth but what we define it to be. We make the determination of what is right and what is wrong according to our own thoughts and preferences. And this is an abomination which is in truth, utter desolation of the soul.]

There is a natural proneness and tendency in us all to give God a sensual, carnal worship, and not that which is commanded in His Word. We are ever ready, by reason of our sloth and unbelief, to devise visible helps and stepping-stones in our approaches to Him, and ultimately to give these inventions of our own the honour due to Him. In fact, idolatry is all natural, down-hill, easy, like the broad way. Spiritual worship is all of grace, all uphill, and all against the grain. Any worship whatsoever is more pleasing to the natural heart, than worshipping God in the way which our Lord Christ describes, “in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23.)[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (London: William Hunt and Company, 1885), 405.

Unity in the abstract is no doubt an excellent thing: but unity without truth is useless. Peace and uniformity are beautiful and valuable: but peace without the Gospel,—peace based on a common Episcopacy, and not on a common faith,—is a worthless peace, not deserving of the name. When Rome has repealed the decrees of Trent, and her additions to the Creed,—when Rome has recanted her false and unscriptural doctrines,—when Rome has formally renounced image-worship, Mary-worship, and transubstantiation,—then, and not till then, it will be time to talk of re-union with her. Till then there is a gulf between us which cannot be honestly bridged.[1]

[1] J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion (London: William Hunt and Company, 1885), 418.

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