In the sermon, “How Sin Makes Us Addicts,” Tim Keller preaches on Jeremiah 2 and the language of sexual desire and idolatry addressed by God, through the prophet Jeremiah, to Israel. Keller expounds that idolatry, when we find our own life, meaning, security, and joy apart from God, is our soul getting in to bed with something else spiritually.
Jeremiah expounds that the people of Israel, like we do today, have replaced God with other gods that become like an addiction. As Jeremiah 2:25 says, “But you say, “It’s hopeless; I love strangers, and I will continue to follow them.” When we follow after these replacement gods, what Keller calls “lover gods”, we become addicted to them as our source of security, joy, and pleasure and we continue to throw ourselves back into their arms.
All humans, regardless of whether we follow Christ or not, are susceptible to the trappings of false, lover gods that entice us to be in bed with them. John Calvin famously said, “Man’s nature…is a perpetual factory of idols.” Jeremiah sees this in man’s nature and quips, “[They] say to a tree, “You are my father,” and to a stone, “You gave birth to me,” (Jeremiah 2:27). Our hearts take objects, like we would stone or wood, and we carve them into a image of worship and attest to their value and worth by assigning them worship (“you are my father”) and identity (“you gave birth to me”). We not only do that, but God’s language in verse 20 literally says that when we go to worship these false idols we spread our legs before them. We enter into spiritual, sexual intercourse with the false idols. Shocking but true imagery of how the relationship with false, lover gods entices us and makes us addicts.
However, we cannot always see and identify the lover gods, since the spiritual attractions or our hearts are not clearly visible to us, but they are just as strong as physical attractions and can be just as or even more deadly. Keller proffers two ways for us to be able to pull the sheets back on our lover gods and find out where we have been turning for love, joy, security, and happiness other than Him.
1) What is it that I feel I have got to have or I am dead?
Keller points to the connection between the Bible’s use of animal biology and our idolatry. In verse 23-24, the idolatry of Israel is compared to a camel or a wild donkey in heat. We restlessly pursue those idols as a female animal will seek out a male to mate with. They do this not out of some complicated need to have their emotional needs fulfilled, but it is literally to survive and perpetuate their species. They need to mate in order to live.
This is the first thing we can look to when we are seeking to find what idols we are getting in bed with. What is in our lives that we have to have or we feel we will die? What is so important to us that if we do not have it, it will cause our very being to feel like it has wasted away and perished? It may the approval of other people, or one specific person. It could be more money because it makes us feel secure and safe from the instability of day to day expenses. We are challenged to find what will cause spiritual death if we cannot have it.
2) What is functioning more as the savior of my life than Jesus Christ?
The second question is to root out what we look to when everything goes bad. What do we go to when the wheels have fallen off and what is standing in place of Jesus Christ as our functional savior? These may be good things, such as wine, food, friends, spouses, etc., but we turn them into God things that rescue us from our times of trouble and deliver us into the Promised Land of whatever we need to feel alive (Jeremiah 2:27-28).
When addressing those behaviors or attitudes in your life that seem to be like the old boyfriend you just couldn’t live without or it feels like an addiction you just can’t shake, ask yourself these two questions to pull back the sheets on your lover gods and expose who you are spiritually sleeping with. The language may be shocking for those who didn’t think your Bible could say things like this, but God wants you to see our sin for what it really is, spiritual sexual promiscuity.
I would feel amiss if I did not leave you with more hope. I will have the follow up three points on how we avoid being enticed by these lover gods and find freedom in Christ. I’ll make sure to link it here after it is posted.