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Counterfeit Gods - Ch 1

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Intro
Group intro -
Scripture
Scripture
Hear God speak, not self help or opinions
Hear God speak, not self help or opinions
Scripture transforms us
Scripture transforms us
It is the foundation for the other two
It is the foundation for the other two
Prayer
Prayer
Us speaking back to God
Us speaking back to God
Acknowledging the truth of scripture
Acknowledging the truth of scripture
Community
Community
The context that scripture and prayer are effective
The context that scripture and prayer are effective
Not just socializing - ministering the gospel to each other
Not just socializing - ministering the gospel to each other
Review
Studying Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller
It is good to read through the chapter and make notes and questions
But not required - I am not quizzing anyone and it will all be covered
Intro lesson
Our world is still filled with idols
Not necessarily little Buddas or Zeus
Personal idols - such as love, family, money, power, health, etc.
Cultural idols - family, hard work, duty, & virtue but also freedom, self-discovery, & fulfillment
3 metaphors for idolatry
Love - what we daydream about
Trust - what we have to control
Obey - what are my most extreme emotions
Summed up as worship
Dream come true?
Keller starts the chapter talking about getting or not getting what you want.
Which is more tragic? We typically say it is not getting what you want.
We never imagine that getting our heart’s deepest desires might be the worst thing that can ever happen to us.
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 1). New York: Riverhead Books.
Discuss
Does this make sense?
Discuss a moment in your life where you can recognize this dynamic?
Anna
A women who wanted children. She got married late but was still able to have a couple of kids. But it was not a dream come true.
Her overpowering drive to give her children a perfect life made it impossible for her to actually enjoy them. Her overprotectiveness, fears and anxieties, and her need to control every detail of her children’s lives made the family miserable.
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (pp. 1–2). New York: Riverhead Books.
Is Anna recognizable? What desire of yours has turned into a nightmare?
v.24
Lusts of heart - deepest desires
God giving you over to your desire is a punishment
Why is it so bad?
v. 25
Exchanging worship - worshipping the creation instead of the Creator (idols)
We were designed to worship God, to worship anything else makes us incomplete
Said another way, to have idols is dehumanizing
The woman, Anna, who was ruining her children’s lives did not “love her children too much,” but rather loved God too little in relationship to them. As a result, her child-gods were crushed under the weight of her expectations.
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 3). New York: Riverhead Books.
Abraham
Keller uses Abraham as a biblical example of this dynamic and how to break free (or more precisely be broken free)
Backstory
His call - Gen 12:1
His call to go
Called to leave (His home, country, & family)
His home, country, & family
He was called to be the father of many nations and a child to fulfill those promises
The difficulty of this call
The obvious difficulties of the original call
But he was 75 years old when he received this call
And childless
And despite the promise, 25 years elapse
God’s fulfillment of his promises
Despite Sarah’s barrenness and old age, she conceives
God provides the child of the promise
No man had ever longed for a son more than Abraham. He had given up everything else to wait for this. When his son came, he felt, then his community would finally see he hadn’t been a fool to give up everything to trust God’s word. Then he would finally have an heir, a son in his own likeness, the thing all ancient Middle Eastern patriarchs wanted. He had waited and sacrificed, and finally his wife had a baby and it was a boy!
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 6). New York: Riverhead Books.
The “question”
So everything is good now right? Happily ever after?
But the question now was—had he been waiting and sacrificing for God, or for the boy? Was God just a means to an end? To whom was Abraham ultimately giving his heart? Did Abraham have the peace, humility, boldness, and unmovable poise that come to those who trust in God rather than in circumstances, public opinion, or their own competence? Had he learned to trust God alone, to love God for himself, not just for what he could get out of God? No, not yet.
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 6). New York: Riverhead Books.
What was Abraham’s ultimate loyalty? what was he worshipping? Was God a means to an end?
Was God a means to an end? Do you ever use God as a means to an end?
Do you ever use God as a means to an end?
The second call
Isaac was the center of Abraham’s world
Designation of Isaac - Your son, your only son, whom you love
The moral aspect of sacrificing a son
We understandably recoil at the thought of God asking us to sacrifice a child - is this just irrational blind faith?
Important to understand the context of the story
In an individualistic culture like ours, an adult’s identity and sense of worth is often bound up in abilities and achievements, but in ancient times, all the hopes and dreams of a man and his family rested in the firstborn son. The call to give up the firstborn son would be analogous to a surgeon giving up the use of his hands, or of a visual artist losing the use of her eyes.
The OT often describes the firstborn as bearing the guilt of the family
Tenth plague in egypt was the death of the firstborn
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 9). New York: Riverhead Books.
The Mosaic law required that firstborn had to be redeemed through sacrifice or service at the temple
Why? - Because the firstborn was the family
God was not just asking him to murder a random family member - that would have been unjust
Instead God was demanding Isaac to bear the debt of the family
What would be other equivalents to Abraham sacrificing his firstborn son in today’s society?
The rest of the story
There is a tension between the justice and grace of God
We saw this tension in Judges
Will God judge his people that consistently leave him and commit evil?
Or will He respond in grace?
We saw both, and one of the literary devices of Judges was to leave that question open
Abraham is now faced with holding these two seemingly incompatible truths
How do you handle when God asks you to hold onto seemingly conflicting truths?
What is our usual response when our idols are under threat?
Abraham’s faith
Abraham does hold onto both
“We will come back”
Tells Isaac: God will provide the lamb -
If he had not believed that he was in debt to a holy God, he would have been too angry to go. But if he had not also believed that God was a God of grace, he would have been too crushed and hopeless to go. He would have just lain down and died. It was only because he knew God was both holy and loving that he was able to put one foot after another up that mountain.
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (pp. 11–12). New York: Riverhead Books.
End of the story
The altar is built, Isaac is bound on top, the knife comes up… Then God stops him
God recognizes Abraham fears God
God provides a replacement ram for the sacrifice
Two Meanings
First - testing loving God supremely
Not an evaluation for God, but a refining of Abraham’s faith
God knows the hearts of men, so he doesnt need the test
But Abraham needed to understand, and needed a trial to make His loyalties clear.
It is not hard to see why God was using Isaac as the means for this. If God had not intervened, Abraham would have certainly come to love his son more than anything in the world, if he did not already do so. That would have been idolatry, and all idolatry is destructive.
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 13). New York: Riverhead Books.
Driving out idols
God uses trials to help us identify and remove idols
If we are never forced to choose, we never know what it means to worship God alone
A mercy by removing the idol
From this perspective we see that God’s extremely rough treatment of Abraham was actually merciful. Isaac was a wonderful gift to Abraham, but he was not safe to have and hold until Abraham was willing to put God first. As long as Abraham never had to choose between his son and obedience to God, he could not see that his love was becoming idolatrous. In a similar way, we may not realize how idolatrous our career has become to us, until we are faced with a situation in which telling the truth or acting with integrity would mean a serious blow to our professional advancement. If we are not willing to hurt our career in order to do God’s will, our job will become a counterfeit god.
What situations can we look back on and show that God was dealing with idols?
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (pp. 13–14). New York: Riverhead Books.
Back to the Anna story
It is easy to give her surface level advice
She has to stop punishing them emotionally for bad grades for example
But she needs to address the deep heart level of the issue
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 14). New York: Riverhead Books.
She is using her kids to find meaning and is therefore enslaved to her desire to make them perfectly successful and happy
Though she believes in God with her mind, her heart’s deepest satisfaction comes from hearing a child saying, “Oh, Mother, I owe everything to you!”
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 15). New York: Riverhead Books.
The idolatry does not only keep her from having God, it keeps her from truly having her kids too
Where is God forcing us to choose? Do you have an example from your past life?
Second meaning - a substitute is needed
Second meaning - a substitute is needed
A substitute for Isaac was found (ram), but it was only a picture
The typology of the ram
The OT is filled with these pictures (sometime called types) that fulfilled later on, usually with an added dimension
David was a king from Bethlehem who defeated enemies - Jesus was the ultimate king who brought ultimate peace
Jonah was in the whale 3 days- Jesus was in the ground 3 days
Isaac was a beloved firstborn who humbly carried wood up a mountain
Sound familiar? Jesus was the beloved firstborn Son of God.
He carried a wooden cross without protest.
He was stretched out to die as a sacrifice.
In the same mountains.
Twist
Whereas Isaac’s father was told to stop his hand, Jesus’ father did not stop his hand from sacrificing Jesus.
Isaac wasnt the only picture-type, the ram was too
Jesus is like the ram in that he was provided as a substitute. For Christ died for sin once for all, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God (1 Pet 3:18)
In fact all of the animals sacrificied were only pictures of Jesus. For is is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Heb 10:4)
We give up idols when we see Gods love & provision
Here, then, is the practical answer to our own idolatries, to the “Isaacs” in our lives, which are not spiritually safe to have and hold. We need to offer them up. We need to find a way to keep from clutching them too tightly, of being enslaved to them. We will never do so by mouthing abstractions about how great God is. We have to know, to be assured, that God so loves, cherishes, and delights in us that we can rest our hearts in him for our significance and security and handle anything that happens in life.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 17). New York: Riverhead Books.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Jesus alone makes sense of this story. The only way that God can be both “just” (demanding payment of our debt of sin) and “justifier” (providing salvation and grace) is because years later another Father went up another “mount” called Calvary with his firstborn and offered him there for us all. You will never be as great, as secure in God, as courageous, as Abraham became simply by trying hard, but only by believing in the Savior to whom this event points. Only if Jesus lived and died for us can you have a God of infinite love and holiness at once. Then you can be absolutely sure he loves you.
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 18). New York: Riverhead Books.
The replacement of idols
This is the only way to remove idols - to replace them
Our hearts are a vacuum - always pulling in something to worship
We dont grit our teeth and push through like some Olympic athlete in the commercials
We replace our love/desire for idols with the same for God
How? By seeing His goodness, His worthiness, how He saved us by sending His Son
Many, if not most, of these counterfeit gods can remain in our lives once we have “demoted” them below God. Then they won’t control us and bedevil us with anxiety, pride, anger, and drivenness. Nevertheless, we must not make the mistake of thinking that this story means all we have to do is be willing to part with our idols rather than actually leave them behind. If Abraham had gone up the mountain thinking, “All I’ll have to do is put Isaac on the altar, not really give him up”—he would have failed the test! Something is safe for us to maintain in our lives only if it has really stopped being an idol.
God often puts us through experiences like Abraham to show us were we depend on things other than God
You don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.
We need the trials to show us to trust God
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (p. 19). New York: Riverhead Books.
These are not tests for God’s sake
He is using them to refine you, so we can learn to trust him.
Keller, T. (2011). Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (pp. 19–20). New York: Riverhead Books.
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