January 13, 2010

10. The problem of sin
"Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from him." (162) The primary way to define sin is "the making of good things into ultimate things. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God." (162)

"Every person is desperately seeking…'cosmic significance.'" "Our need for worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identity and value on we essentially 'deify.' We will look to it with all the passion and intensity of worship and devotion, even if we think of ourselves as highly irreligious." (163, citing Ernest Becker)

"…sin destroys us personally. Identity apart from God is inherently unstable. Without God, our sense of worth may seem solid on the surface, but it never is--it can desert you in a moment." (164) "There is no way to avoid this insecurity outside of God." "An identity not based on God also leads inevitably to deep forms of addiction."

"Building our lives on something besides God not only hurts us if we don't get the desires of our hearts, but also if we do." (166) "…if you don't live for Jesus you will live for something else." (172)
We need love in order to survive. We thrive when we are loved by others. Without love, we fall apart, we lose our way, we enter despair. In the words of Robert Palmer, we are truly addicted to love:
We are addicted to love, and it’s out of control.
We would give anything and everything to find it.
Here is where I begin to hold to a conspiracy theory.
There’s more going on here than meets the eye.
It’s as if we’ve been purposefully designed with a factory defect that keeps us searching… for love.[2]
McManus argues that the pursuit of love plays more of a role in human history than the survival of the fittest: “We cannot live unaffected by love. We are most alive when we find it, most devastated when we lose it, most empty when we give up on it, most inhumane when we betray it, and most passionate when we pursue it
What if our soul’s craving for love is an indication that we have been created by Love for Love. If, as the New Testament proclaims, God is love, than our search for love is, in actuality, a search for God. “If God is love, it is maddening when we are running from God and yet searching for love.”[5]
The truth that God is love – and consequently, that we have been made by Love for Love – is at the heart of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. McManus argues that the reason God came in the flesh was for this very purpose – to fully manifest his love to others, something that can only be done personally: “If the message that God wants to get across to us is just about getting our beliefs right, then he didn’t need to come himself… There is only reason for God to come himself, because in issues of love, you just can’t have someone else stand in for you.”[6]
McManus’ final entry under “Intimacy” – “Entry #21” – is titled “Love is Not a Four-Letter Word.” The sole contents of this entry are the classic Beatles’ lyrics, “All you need is love” followed by the New Testament phrase, “God is Love.”
The overall impression you get from the book is that our big problem isn’t sin but a lack of self-actualisation
Deep in our souls there's a longing for God. Often it's almost silenced by the busyness of our days. But it's there. A quiet aching--an unrelenting desire. A soul craving that only God can satisfy.

But God is a stretch. Is God real? Why should I believe in God? Scientifically, he can’t be proven. Rationally, he can’t be boxed into a neat little passage. Not only that, but why believe in something I’ve never experienced? Why believe the word of people I don’t know if I trust?

Who did Jesus think he was? And why should I care?
Still have questions?: Ask us
Trust. We may not realize it, but what we believe to be true (and I’m not just talking about God) is directly tied to who we think we can trust. I doubt the truth in political ads because I have little trust for politicians. I know the motives of the credit card offers I often get, so I don’t believe that there are no hidden catches. Truth is tied to trust. We will not believe someone we do not trust, and we do not trust easily.
At least, we like to think so. But if we break it down, there are many things we trust without as much as a backward glance.
I trust the laws of the universe that say the sun will rise tomorrow. I trust that the ozone layer will not be depleted in the next half hour and I will continue to breathe without any problems. I trust that my pay cheque will be deposited in my account on Friday as my employers have promised. I trust that my chair will continue to hold me up, and I trust that my mom loves me even if she doesn’t say so every day.
So why don’t we trust God, or even the people who say they trust God?
For a lot of people, the answer is one word: Religion. Capital-R, organized, hierarchical, power-structure Religion.
If you stepped into a toxic religious environment, you were right to run, even if Jesus’ name was attached to it. And by the way, when you did that, you weren’t running farther from Jesus but closer to him. You just have to be careful not to come to the tragic conclusion that just because you’ve experienced something that was false and maybe even toxic, there is nothing that is good. Even when you find yourself frustrated, even when you feel that you’ve been duped or deceived, even when you think something is true and later discover it is false, you should take solace in this; something inside you knows the difference.
Something within you not only compels you to search for truth, but has a soul reaction to it. – Erwin McManus
Jesus and Religion aren’t synonymous. Jesus and God are. Jesus and Truth are. Jesus and Trust are.
I know I’m not pulling out big empirical proofs for God’s existence. I don’t intend on it, and neither does Erwin’s book. But what we are both saying, if you’re still with me, is this:
Humanity is a profound mystery. We share desires that are universal, yet unique to our species. Where do they come from? What is their origin? To find this out, we have to know ourselves. As we explore our souls, we find echoes and traces of something bigger than ourselves. We find traces of the source of these cravings for intimacy, destiny, meaning. To find these cravings fulfilled, we have to seek the Source. We have to find God.
If it’s a part of our make-up, it has to have a source. Like looking at the Mona Lisa makes us aware that there’s a painter, so our intricacies point to something bigger. And there’s a Source, then he will have the answers. He will know why and how and what it is exactly that we can’t understand, even after staring for hours at a canvas, even after days of solitude and soul-reflection.
The most life-changing and illuminating decision I ever made was to choose to trust God. To take as truth that Jesus is the Source of all that I am and that He has all the answers. Not only that, but that He is the answer.
I thought for a while that God could meet my needs and stop my soul cravings. Now I know that isn’t the case.
My soul doesn’t crave something from God; my soul craves God. And by the way, so does yours.
That’s why everything else will leave you unsatisfied in the end. But don’t let this frustrate you; just let it fuel you. – Erwin McManus
The desire for fulfillment is universal. From the moment we are born we recognize within ourselves an insatiable hunger for more of life. We try to grasp onto every experience, enjoy every relationship, and maximize every opportunity. Yet even as we strive to fill our lives to the brim with adventures, we are never fully satisfied.
You don’t have to look too far before you run into a myriad of quotes on the topic of living life to the fullest. Carpe Diem translates from the Latin into Seize the Day and appears everywhere from graduation presents to plaques. Living a full and satisfying life is at the top of our inborn priorities, and yet it seems to be a goal that is impossible to reach completely.
Insatiable by Design
It is not a matter of chance that humans not only seek to survive but actually thrive. This desire to live rather than simply exist is what separates us from animals, and it is one of the many ways in which God made human beings unique. We were created with the ability to feel emotions, and the hunger to grow and learn because we were created by God in his own image. God is the creator, source and definition of life and it is these characteristics of him that cause us to be creative and drive us to live enjoy and treasure life.
Where’s the Disconnect?
If we were created by God himself to live fulfilling lives, why do so many of us feel like we are running on empty? And why does it seem like most of the time religion hurts rather than helps the cause of a life fully lived? Though we were created by God to live lives that are rich and satisfying, they can only be made complete by a relationship with Him. The Bible says that, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
God gave us many things which are pleasurable and which he made to enjoy, but their sole purpose was only ever to point us towards him. Without this relationship, every experience is dulled by being limited to itself. It no longer satisfies its original purpose – to point us towards the Creator who imagined it.
He engrained in our hearts the knowledge of a reality much greater than our temporal existence. When we expect to live completely fulfilling lives without God, we expect something of life that it was never designed to do.
About Jesus
A life to the fullest is a life that is characterized by being in relationship with Jesus, because he himself is the definition of life. John 14:6 identifies Jesus as the life. It reads, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Christ is not only the life but he is also the truth and the way in which we can have a fulfilling relationship with God the way we were designed to. We cannot pick and choose which parts of Jesus we accept and which we don’t. Just in the same way that we cannot choose to be in relationship with certain parts of any individual, we cannot live with Christ fully if we do not accept him as the truth and the way, as well as the life.
What does Truth and Way mean exactly?
Accepting Christ as the truth and the way means appropriating Christ’s ways as our own ways, and recognizing him as the source of all truth. This is not a popular choice. Instead, we naturally prefer to have control of our lives and create our own definitions of right and wrong. This is evident in the prominence of brokenness in our world resulting from our poor choices. It is these choices that the bible defines as sin.
Sin translated from the Greek means “missing the mark.” God created us to have a full satisfying life filled with his presence. We miss the mark when we live any other way than in unity with God. However, we are unable to experience this unity because we have chosen another path rather than God’s.
Sin is not a recent phenomenon. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they chose their own version of life and thus sinned. They traded in the truth of God, his perfect mark, and instead bought into a lie of independent living that could never fulfill its false promise of freedom.
As we see and experience now, this life apart from God turned out to be not life at all but instead brokenness. It is similar to that of a child who desires the freedom to run into traffic. In their eyes they are living more fully when they run freely, but the parent knows that this kind of “full living” results in death.
Romans 6:23 explains this in spiritual terns, “For the wages of sin is death.” The wage we deserve for our choice to live outside of God’s will for us is death: eternal separation from God and everything that is good. This is what is often understood as hell. However, these negative consequences affect our experience of life here on earth too, causing brokenness and in a very real sense spiritual death.
And so we have our world, a series of hit and runs, where we run freely to gain freedom, but end up paying with our entire lives. The life that Christ offers us is spiritual life. Christ’s life allows us to be re-united with God the Father who created our lives and desires to show us for what purposes he gave us these lives. It is here that we can leave behind empty lives of striving and instead experience satisfied lives that are full of purpose and meaning.
How does Christ restore our relationship with God?
As we’ve already discussed, our attempt to independently live from God results in the natural consequence of spiritual death. However, God desires life for us to such a great extent that he made a way through Christ for us to have that life restored. The second half of Romans 6:23 tells us that though “the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
John 3:16 is also another popularly quoted passage in the Bible, and it is so for a valid reason. It tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus Christ, God’s Son was both fully God and fully human. He was able to live a life in perfect unity with God because he lived it in perfect obedience to him. Unjustly, Christ was crucified on the cross, a perfect God sacrificed to cover the wages of sin we deserve. At the same time Christ is able to welcome us into life because he himself did not stay surrendered to death. Three days after Christ died on the cross he rose again, and was resurrected to life.
What’s my part?
Christ’s death and life means we do not have to give up our physical lives, but it does mean we must make an active choice to surrender our right to live independent lives of sin, and instead accept and welcome God’s way of life.
This requires us to confess to God that we have chosen to live apart from him, and to commit to live a life dedicated to him. It is here that can accept Jesus’ gift of having lived and died on our behalf before God, and acknowledge that this is the only way our relationship with God can be made right. He must not only be the guide (or Lord) of our lives, but also our Saviour from a spiritual death and slavery to sin.

Does this mean I’ll always be happy?
Happiness is one of the many emotions that we have been given by God and we can accept it as one of his good gifts. However, like any other emotion it is dependent on circumstances and can quickly vanish. It fades when your child becomes sick, when the career of your dreams turns out to be the world’s worst job and when you age at an ever increasing speed.
God may not guarantee us constant happiness when we begin a relationship with him, but he does promise to be an ever flowing source of joy. Joy knows and reminds us that our security is in our restored relationship with God and the eternal life he has promised us. It comes with knowing God and is based on his faithfulness.
There comes a choice:
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 holds a challenge that each of us must respond to, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life.”

Where are you today? Are you ready to allow God to be your life?
If you are, the final step is a prayer asking God to come into your life and make you the person he wants you to be. Prayer is just talking to God. There is no right or wrong way to do it. God is not concerned about the words that you choose. He cares about the state of your heart. He hears you, the words aren’t that important. This is a suggested prayer you might want to use if you’d like to begin a relationship with God.
Jesus, I want to know you personally. I know that I am a sinner and that nothing I could do can make up for that. Thank you for dying in my place and paying the price for my sin. I know that my sin doesn’t separate me from God anymore. Thank you for forgiving me. I know that you love me and that I will spend eternity with you. I want you to be my Savior. Come into my life and take control, make me the person you want me to be.
This craving for love and intimacy begins in us when we are just young children. When my daughter was young, I read her fairy tales. Her favorite part was always when the prince and princess fell in love. She believed someday a prince would come into her life. For many of us, even as adults, we still believe as she did.
What we are often unaware of is that we are created for intimacy. We are deeply relational and desire to be loved and accepted. This love that we try to find and then attain throughout our lives, is actually impossible in and of ourselves. People will always let us down. Even those who love us most will not be able to live up to our expectations.
We crave to be filled with the sense of satisfaction and confidence, which often results when we are in intimate relationships. Some strive to fill that with sex and love and are often left feeling empty and broken. It’s possible we are looking in the wrong place to fill that void. Our deepest craving for intimacy is actually spiritual. As we discover a deep and meaningful relationship with God, our core craving becomes satisfied giving us a foundation to work through the sometimes-rocky relationships we find ourselves in. If you find yourself in a painful place in your relationship and need someone to talk to, we are here and would love to talk to you
Everyone has “cravings” … desires and needs that must be fulfilled. If they aren’t, then our lives themselves seem unfulfilled. It seems that no matter how much we have, or experience, we always want more.
Maybe these cravings, which can’t be satisfied adequately by any of the things in this world, aren’t there by accident. Maybe they are there to encourage us to look for something even greater.
read a book called Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus. These are my thoughts (McManus’ quotes are in italics).
It’s hard to define the things inside my heart. I wonder if I’m the only one who feels what I feel and wants what I want. Am I the same as others in this mass of humanity, or am I alone in my experiences?
Maybe you sometimes feel the same way.
In high school, I had a vague notion that when I graduated I would take off for a couple days, go somewhere in the wild, set up a tent, and spend three days with myself. My hope was that at the end of the time, with nothing but myself and some food, I would have a better idea of who I am and what I want, and where to head with my life.
It’s six years later, and I would still like a getaway like that. Even to myself, I’m a mystery.

Love For a Lifetime: How I got past the parental rejection of my childhood
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I know I want things, but I can’t always recognize what they are. Sometimes I hear people (especially musicians) articulate some profound thought or experience that resonates with my heart, and I wonder, “How do they know? Are we that much the same?”
Some themes in life are reoccurring. In many different ways, different places and different voices, human desires are articulated.
o Intimacy
o Destiny
o Meaning
It seems that these are integral parts of the human make-up, but why? What makes us long for these things?
Given all the problems love can create, why do we keep longing for it? How many thousands of years will it take for us to learn? How many Romeos and Juliets need to lie dead on the floor before we’re willing to give up this perverse addiction? Oh, I know they weren’t real, but then again, is love? If evolution is our preferred understanding of the human story, why can’t we evolve ourselves out of this primal Achilles’ heel we know as love? And don’t give me this thing about the propagation of the species. Love isn’t necessary for reproduction – just sex is. All you need is attraction, not emotion…If intimacy is only about attraction, we could just keep lust and dispense with love. But it just won’t go away. – Erwin McManus
When I first read this, I stopped and went through it again. And then a third time. Yeah. Why do we crave love? Why do I want to be known so deeply, to know someone and trust them and be trustworthy?
It is not enough for me to be kind of cool, or for me to have had a moment or two of meaningful connection. I want it to go on. I stress over relational disharmony, I crave connection – not just a physical connection, but a deep emotional bond of being known and being wanted.
All of us long to become something more than we are. We are driven to achieve, moved to accomplish, fueled by ambition. It burns hotter in some than in others, but it is within all of us. We’re all searching for our unique purpose, our divine destiny, or simply a sense of significance or some measure of success…all of us are united in our desperate attempt to make a future for ourselves. We all desperately want to achieve something, to accomplish something; we just don’t know what. Worse than that, we don’t even understand why. Yet that doesn’t stop us from searching. – Erwin McManus
It’s true, I think to myself. I do want to achieve. I don’t know what exactly, but something. I don’t want to sit here in anonymity for the rest of my life. But why? I could get by, I’m sure. Why wouldn’t that be enough?
Have you ever thought about this? What drives us to do, to accomplish? Why do we want to make the world a better place – for myself at least, if not for others? Where does our creative urge come from, and why are we not content to be spoon-fed for the rest of our lives?
This may be a jump for some, but Erwin and I both think it has to do with God. Not God who sits in a palace and points his lightning-trident at anyone he catches doing wrong, but God who loves us and created us with purpose and creativity. God who created us with the hope that we would do good and not harm.
Crave Intimacy?
These are a few excerpts from Erwin McManus’ book Soul Cravings. The human condition is fascinating, our desire to be known and loved. We are left asking ourselves: Why can’t we evolve past our need to be loved?
“Given all the problems love can create, why do we keep longing for it? How many thousands of years will it take for us to learn? How many Romeos and Juliets need to lie dead on the floor before we’re willing to give up on this perverse addiction? Oh, I know they weren’t real, but then again, is love? If evolution is our preferred understanding of the human story, why can’t we evolve ourselves out of this primal Achilles’ heel we know as love? And don’t give me this thing about the propagation of the species. Love isn’t necessary for reproduction – just sex is. All you need is attraction, not emotion… If intimacy is only about attraction, we could just keep lust and dispense with love. But it won’t go away… It seems humiliating to say it, but we need to be loved.”
~ Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, Entry 2 ~
“We will reshape, redesign, and remake ourselves to be a part of a broader community. We will go to great lengths and great pains to become insiders. At one end of the spectrum, we will pierce ourselves, tattoo ourselves, and mutilate ourselves to be our unique selves, who look like a lot of other people. At the other end of the spectrum, we will use Botox, collagen, and plastic surgery to become what we hope other people will love. We will go through hell weeks, allow ourselves to be demeaned during hazing, and even commit unimaginable acts of violence to make it through an initiation just so that we can belong, so that we can be apart of a tribe. In the end we are all tribal. We are created by a relational God for relationship. God made us for relationships, and we only begin to experience life fully when we move toward healthy relationships and healthy community. Your soul will never be satisfied with anything less. When we are estranged from God, we drift from love. Without God we lose our source of love but not our need for love
I am the truth
Do you crave meaning?
In this day and age, “meaning” is a tricky concept. The way Erwin McManus’ book Soul Cravings talks about it, it’s about significance, truth and trust. Those three things are closely entwined…and we can’t deny that truth and trust matter. They matter immensely. So what does Erwin have to say about truth?
“I didn’t need everything fixed. I certainly didn’t need all the answers. I just needed to know the truth. We underestimate the healing power of truth. We also underestimate how desperately our souls long for truth. Our souls crave truth. We want to know the truth. We need to know the truth. The human spirit isn’t designed to live a lie. Ironically, the only reason we are capable of lying is that we are able to know the truth. Even without any external guidelines or boundaries, we know a lie when we tell one. We have a filter within us that separates truth from falsehood. We assume this is simply a part of being human, but we shouldn’t underestimate what this says about us as a species… Not only is it unhealthy to be lied to, but it is corrosive to our souls to lie and deceive others. We weren’t designed to live a lie or even to tell one. Even if you don’t believe in God, don’t believe in objective truth, and don’t believe in any moral absolutes, you still have to grapple with the unusual human phenomenon that we become psychologically and relationally sick when we live a lie and we find an environment of truthfulness, even when the truth is more painful than the lie.”
~ Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, Entry 2 ~
“Our souls crave to know the truth, and we need to pursue it at all cost. Whatever the implication, whatever it takes us, we must search for meaning, strive for understanding, struggle to make sense of life, never give up on the belief that the truth is out there.”
~ Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, Entry 2 ~
“Jesus didn’t come advocating a better idea. While history is filled with great teachers, being the best of them was never Jesus’ goal or ambition. He never said to his disciples, “This is the truth. Follow it.” Instead, he said something far more compelling. Jesus’ claim was nothing less than “I am the truth.” Jesus moves truth from impersonal to personal. He moved it from rational to relational. He was telling his disciples the truth isn’t an answer; it is a person. You don’t come to know the truth as a result of an academic pursuit. You might discover an endless number of things that are true along the way, but this is not the truth your soul is craving. No matter how many true things you come to know, they will never leave you satisfied until you find your way to the One who is the very source of truth.”
~Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, Entry 17 ~
Crave Destiny?
These two quotes capture what Erwin is trying to get us to understand about our souls and our futures.
“Why are we most alive when we are pursuing a great dream? Why is it that we need a reason to live? Why do we need to feel that we are in some way unique? Why is it that when we conclude our lives don’t matter, we lose the will to live? The maddening reality is that each and every one of us has been created with a soul craving to become – to become something – something better, something different, something special, something unique, something admired, something valued, something more than we are… We not only assume the future and believe in the future, but we’re all searching for a future.”
~ Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, Entry 11 ~
“You can choose to believe that your spirit has lived a thousand times before and that in a previous life you were a bug – or even worse than that, it’s the life to come. Or you can choose to believe that you are the result of some kind of genetic mutation that arbitrarily happened through the evolutionary process. But remember this, what can settle your mind will not settle your soul. It will stir it up. You are a unique creation made by God to live and not simply exist. Your soul longs to find its ultimate purpose. It will not rest until you do. Your soul craves destiny. Your soul desires. It always will. You were created as a creative being. You were made to grow, to dream, to achieve. Your soul is letting you know you come from God and your life is intended to be God-sized and God-inspired.”
~ Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, Entry 23 ~
Is it true that we were created with purpose? Why do we long to achieve? What makes us want to become more than we are right now?
McManus wants readers to come to know themselves and meet God on the journey. "This thing that haunts you, that never seems satisfied, the cravings in your soul that you are unable to satiate through all the success that the world can bring—this is your soul screaming for God."

shows readers how our need for intimacy, meaning, and destiny point to the existence of God and our need to connect with Him. This book will deeply stir readers to consider and chase after the spiritual implications of their souls' deepest longings.

f there is an answer to be found in SOUL CRAVINGS, it is this: our cravings begin and end with God. Throughout, McManus reminds us that, ultimately, whatever it is that we crave most --- for instance, love --- is already available to us in our relationship with God. And trying to fill those cravings with anything other than God is not only futile but can also be destructive. He writes: "No matter what we become, it is never enough. Our souls always crave more. It's not because they're insatiable, but because we know there's more to be had." That "more" is a life of intimacy, destiny and meaning --- all of which can only be found in a life with God
Time after time, Keller shows us that the answer to the slavery that idols bring - is not simply to love these good things less - but to love Christ more, and throughout this short book, Keller's insightful exploration of the gospel through some of the familiar stories of the bible, helps and encourages us to do this.

have been reading this book in pieces as I have been preaching on idolatry this autumn. I've referenced it numerous times. A few quotes I've used...
We never imagine that getting our heart's deepest desires might be the worst thing that can ever happen to us. (p 1)
If we are not willing to hurt our career in order to do God's will, our job will become a counterfeit god. (p 14)
The idol of success cannot be just expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart's desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable. (p 93)
The normal response to our sense of powerlessness is to deny it, to find people to dominate and control in order to live in that denial. (p 124-125)
I have to be honest...Counterfeit Gods has brought some serious conviction in my heart. A part of it is the sermons I've prepared with the book as a foundational resource (though I haven't preached through this book). But mostly it's been the words of Keller, who knows how to take biblical truth and deliver it to the heart in practical and profound ways. My idols have been exposed.
Counterfeit Gods will be sitting on our church book table, given to those in leadership, and recommended to any number of people. It will have great benefit for both Christians and non-Christians. I can't reco
Keller is a good student not only of Scripture but of culture as well and he understands that we “civilized” people are quick to try and distance ourselves from idolatry, conjuring up images of stone and wooden figures that we literally bow before. So he wastes no time defining idolatry:
It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” (xvii)
Keller presses this point until it is (rightfully) uncomfortable, noting that we have a tendency to turn good things life into the best things, making idols out of not only obvious things like money, sex and power, but also less obvious things like family and romantic love. Nearly anything can function as an idol in our lives. This is why Martin Luther insisted that our breaking any of the last 9 Commandments is because we already broke the first. Keller paraphrases Luther:
“We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one. Why do we fail to love or keep promises or live unselfishly? Of course, the general answer is ‘because we are weak and sinful,’ but the specific answer in any actual circumstance is that there is something you feel you must have to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God himself. We would not lie unless we first had made something-human approval, reputation, power over others, financial advantage-more important and valuable to our hearts than the grace and favor of God. The secret to change is identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart (166)”.
idols cannot simply be removed. They must be replaced (155).”
The antidote, of course, is Jesus:
“Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol…If you uproot the idol and fail to ‘plant’ the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back (172).”
Keller masterfully but mercifully demonstrates time and time again how Jesus is the only real cure for our idolatry. He leaves us no doubt that we are all idolaters, but then gives “the only Hope that matters.”
This is a valuable book and a must-read for every believer.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God and a nationally renowned minister, Timothy Keller exposes the error of making good things "ultimate" in his latest book, and shows readers a new path toward a hope that lasts.

Success, true love, and the life you’ve always wanted. Many of us placed our faith in these things, believing they held the key to happiness, but with a sneaking suspicion they might not deliver. The recent economic meltdown has cast a harsh new light on these pursuits. In a matter of months, fortunes, marriages, careers, and a secure retirement have disappeared for millions of people. No wonder so many of us feel lost, alone, disenchanted, and resentful. But the truth is that we made lesser gods of these good things -gods that can’t give us what we really need. There is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings- and now is the perfect time to meet him again, or for the first time.

The Bible tells us that the human heart is an "idol- factory," taking good things and making them into idols that drive us. In Counterfeit Gods, Keller applies his trademark approach to show us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the unvarnished truth about societal ideals and our own hearts. This powerful message will cement Keller’s reputation as a critical thinker and pastor, and comes at a crucial time-for both the faithful and the skeptical.
Author Bio
Timothy Keller opened Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989, and now ministers to more than 9,000 regular Sunday attendees, plus the members of fifty "church plants" nationwide. He is also the author of The Prodigal God and the New York Times bestseller The Reason for God.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Idol Factory...ix
ONE All You’ve Ever Wanted...1
TWO Love Is Not All You Need...22
THREE Money Changes Everything...48
FOUR The Seduction of Success...72
FIVE The Power and the Glory...97
SIX The Hidden Idols in Our Lives...126
SEVEN The End of Counterfeit Gods...154
Epilogue: Finding and Replacing Your Idols...165
Publisher's Weekly
Author of The Reason for God and senior pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Keller asserts that the chaos of the global financial crisis offers a rare opportunity, as individuals and as a society, to discern the “glittering gods” that enslave us. “The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one,” writes Keller, mercilessly dissecting the things he believes keep men and women from acknowledging their sin and God’s love, grace and centrality. Shadowed by the pastor’s austere Reformed vision of the depth and shape-shifting forms of human depravity, this sometimes bleak series of linked meditations weaves the spiritual journeys of biblical figures like the Old Testament soldier Naaman with insights from more modern figures, including 19th-century industrialist Andrew Carnegie, contemporary author Malcolm Gladwell and retired tennis star Chris Evert. A work of recession spirituality and cultural criticism, this volume will appeal to those who share Keller’s conviction that the journey away from idolatry and toward God can sometimes take a lifetime. (Oct. 20) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Customer Reviews

Keller invites us to explore our deepest longings and motivations and to wean us off the gods that we pursue, by directing us to Jesus Christ. Although this book is, in many ways, a challenging, even a painful book to read as it lays bear the longings of our own hearts, it offers fresh hope for those of us whose gods have let us down.

In an accessible and masterful way, Keller reveals how we can take good things (career, love, family, material things) and make them "ultimate" things - seeking in them a security and fulfillment that are are never unable to deliver. He is also realistic about the hold that our idols have upon us, recognising that only a living encounter with God can deal with their stubbornness, as Christ himself becomes what it ultimate in our lives. Time after time, Keller shows us that the answer to the slavery that idols bring - is not simply to love these good things less - but to love Christ more, and throughout this short book, Keller's insightful exploration of the gospel through some of the familiar stories of the bible, helps and encourages us to do this.

I can't recommend this book too highly and I'm itching to read it with others and to allow its message and insights to work more deeply in me.

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