Previously I had written on Tim Keller’s sermon, How Sin Makes Us Addicts, and Keller’s two questions on how to uncover your lover gods. When we replace the love of God with love of other things, it can become an addiction that enslaves us. These replacement gods become what Keller calls “lover gods” and we spiritually sleep around with them.
The last post left little hope beyond being able to identify those lover gods, but Keller also dives deeper into Jeremiah 2 to give us good news and hope. Once we have uncovered these false gods that woos us and grab our affections, Keller offers three charges to overcoming your fatal attractions and gaining freedom from them.
Personalize Your View of Sin
So often we want to view our sin as merely a transgression of God’s law. We act in a way that we know is wrong, compare it to what God says in His word, and we scold ourselves to try and not do that again. The problem with this is that we do not recognize that sin is a power that when we scold it, it merely wants to do it more. We echo the words of Paul in Romans 7:18b-19:
“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
What we fail to realize is that sin is not merely a transgression of the law and of God, but it breaks the heart of God. Keller says the language God uses in Jeremiah 2 is one of a jealous lover who has been abandoned by his bride. Verses 2 and 3 say:
“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the LORD,
the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
disaster came upon them,
declares the LORD.”
The people of Israel had faithfully followed God through the wilderness after being rescued from slavery and had been God’s holy, set apart people. They were the LORD’s lovely bride who he had given His heart to and they turned from Him and stabbed him in the heart.
In order to see sin for what it really is, we need to personalize it and see that our sin is not merely to run afoul in our morality or our behavior, but it is to divorce ourselves from our true love, God himself. Only then will our heart truly melt and the allure of sin and our sinful lusts can start to be overcome.
In Jeremiah 2:6, God says to His people Israel:
“They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that none passes through,
where no man dwells?”
Israel, God’s people, goes after false gods because they were not remembering the grace that He had for his people when we brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. When we fail to remember God’s grace through us through Jesus Christ, our natural inclination is to turn to those things that we think will rescue, aka our lover gods.
We remember our salvation not by just calling God’s salvation to mind, but we remember through intentional times that are a picture of grace. We can remember His grace every time we take the Lord’s Supper and remember Jesus’ body and blood shed for us. Also, when we gather together on Sunday mornings we can take that time to sing and preach about the grace of God. Opening our Bibles and reading about God’s grace is another way that we can remember His grace every day. We need to have those times where we are actively remembering God’s grace collectively and individually in order to overcome the wiles of our lover gods.
Look in the Mirror
God constantly compares his people to his bride and Keller embraces that comparison to drive home that we are to combat and overcome our lover gods by looking in the mirror. In verse 32, Jeremiah prophesies, “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” Again, God compares Israel, his people, to a bride and compares Israel forgetting God to a bride forgetting her wedding attire?
Why would he do that? Think about it. Does a bride forget what she was wearing on her wedding day? Or as Tim Keller asks, does she suddenly get up to the altar and remember she forgot to put makeup on? Of course not! A bride is looking in the mirror all day on her wedding day. She is constantly adjusting and adorning herself as she prepares to walk down the aisle. Our flight to lover gods is tantamount to a bride forgetting to take a look in the mirror before her wedding day.
But is that not what we are constantly trying to do? Keller astutely points out that our hearts are always trying to ornament ourselves to look spiritually acceptable to God. But the point Keller is making is not to be looking in the mirror in order to make sure our own ornaments and makeup look good, but to look in the mirror and see who we are in Christ.
Ephesians 5 says that Christ came to perfect us in order to make us spotless and presentable before God. When we look in the mirror we can see that we have been adorned with the perfect and righteous life of Christ. We can join Paul, after his rant in Romans 7 about sin and our flesh, by saying, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are able to remember his stunning grace and to look in the mirror and see how beautiful we are in Christ.
The poisonous charms of our lover gods will be harmlessly neutralized when we can see the beauty of Christ before us and clothing us, and we run down the aisle into His amazing grace.