Posts tagged ‘Golden Calf’

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

One of my favorite lines from the movie “Talladega Nights” comes when Ricky Bobby says a prayer.  He opens, “Dear eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus, in your golden, fleece diapers, with your curled-up, fat, balled-up little fists pawin’ at the air…”  At such a sappy, sentimental, and wholly inaccurate conception of Jesus, Ricky’s friend Chip is mortified.  He says, “He was a man!  He had a beard!”  Ricky responds, “I like the baby version the best, do you hear me?”

Ricky’s response to Chip, though humorous, is all too seriously indicative of the way many people treat Jesus.  Jesus is fine with the world, as long as the world is allowed to make Him over in its own image, rather than the people of the world being made in His image.  The precedent set in Genesis is reversed:  “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).  But we want none of this.  So we change the text to read, “So we will have god in our own image and on our own terms.  A macho god, a feminist god, a baby god, a senile, grandfatherly god, we will make him and make him over.”  This, of course, is rank heresy.  But it is widely palatable and even widely peddled.  After all, who doesn’t want a god who always agrees with them?  As Anne Lamott quips, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

But the real God has a funny way of resisting the efforts of those who want to make Him over.  Just ask the Israelites what happened to their golden calf.  It is with this in mind that I found this quote from Michael Horton to be especially salient:

The Gentiles love wisdom, so show them a Jesus who is smarter at solving the conundrums of daily living and the church will throng with supporters.  Paul says that his Jewish contemporaries love signs and wonders.  So tell people that Jesus can help them have their best life now, or bring in the kingdom of glory, or drive out the Romans and prove their integrity before the pagans, and Jesus will be laureled with praise.  Give them some moral wisdom from your own faith tradition that might help them be better parents and spouses, and they might listen – as long as your provide suggestions and not commands on the basis of which God will judge on the last day.  But proclaim Christ as the Suffering Servant who laid down His life and took it back up again, and everybody wonders who changed the subject.  But the church exists in order to change the subject from us and our deeds to God and His deeds of salvation. (Michael Horton, Christless Christianity, 141)

Now certainly, the Scriptures give us much fine and even transcendent guidance on how to live our lives. Indeed, the Scriptures are replete with ethical concerns. But the Scriptures to do not stop at and with mere ethics. No, the Scriptures find their goal in Christ. And the Church’s job is to proclaim Christ, God’s Son, as He wants to be proclaimed: as the Savior of the world.   For finally, He will be proclaimed as no one less and in no other way.  And finally, we can be saved by no one less and in no other way.  Praise be to God for that.  Praise be to the real God, that is.

July 28, 2010 at 7:56 am 2 comments

ABC Extra – The Power of Peer Pressure

This weekend in worship and ABC, we discussed the family fiasco of addiction.  The statistics pertaining to various addictions are startling:

  • 23% of adults consume more than five alcoholic beverages each day.
  • Each year, nearly 35 million people try to quit smoking.  Less than 7% are successful.
  • 25 million Americans visit cyber-sex sites between one and ten hours per week. Another 4.7 million spend in excess of 11 hours per week on these sites.

Clearly, we are a culture trapped by our addictive behaviors.

Sadly, these addictive behaviors often start when a person is young.  Teenagers are drawn into habits of smoking, drinking, drug use, and sexual immorality, usually because their friends pressure them to engage in such activities.  Consider these statistics:

  • The Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base reports that 30% of teens are offered drugs in middle and high school.
  • According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 74% of high school students have tried alcohol at the encouragement of their friends.
  • The Kaiser Foundation reports that 50% of teenagers feel pressured to engage in sexually promiscuous relationships.

Peer pressure is clearly alive and well among our youth.  Indeed, it is thriving.  The problem is, peer pressure coerces many of our kids straight into harmful addictions.

One of the myths about peer pressure is that it is a relatively new phenomenon.  In another survey, teens were asked whether or not peer pressure affected people 100 years ago.  46% of the respondents said that peer pressure affected teens “significantly less” than it does today while another 16% said that peer pressure didn’t affect teens at all a century ago.

In reality, peer pressure is nothing new.  In our text from this weekend, we encounter an instance of peer pressure when the Israelites “gather around Aaron and say, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us” (Exodus 32:1).  Notably, the word for “around” – when the Israelites gather “around” Aaron – is al.  Al is a notoriously ambiguous preposition and can be translated as everything from “upon” to “beside” to “beyond” to “towards” to “against.”  In other words, it is a catchall preposition.  Many scholars believe that, in Exodus 32:1, al is best translated as “against.”  That is, the Israelites gather against Aaron to put some pressure on him to cast a false idol.  In a phrase, the Israelites place Aaron under the weight of “peer pressure.”

Tragically, Aaron caves to the Israelites’ al. He builds their false idol.  And, just as in a case of addiction, the Israelites become enslaved to this idol as they worship it even as a drug addict is enslaved to heroin or a food addict is enslaved to sweets.  And it all begins with the Israelites’ peer pressure on Aaron.

How do you respond to peer pressure that would lead you down a dead end road to sin?  Do you cave in as Aaron did, or do you take a stand even when people are against you?  Another famed biblical character, King David, knew well the heartache of having people against him.  He cries out to God, “O LORD, how many are my foes!  How many rise up against me” (Psalm 3:1).  But unlike Aaron, David does not cave to peer pressure.  For David knows, “You, O LORD, are a shield around me” (Psalm 3:3).  David remains steadfast, even in the face of the menacing al of his foes.  My prayer for you this week is that when the world would come against you with its addictions, you would stand steadfast in Christ’s righteousness.

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May 24, 2010 at 4:45 am 2 comments

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