I spent a few minutes yesterday reading about the new iPhone–the iPhone 3G S. It sounds spectacular. With every generation of the phone the wizards at Apple get one step closer to what people wanted the iPhone to be from the outset–an amazing, innovative, gizmo that does so many things so well. Watching the videos, reading the descriptions, I can feel my heart begin to long for that phone. I know that if I don’t watch myself, if I don’t guard my heart, I may just find myself dedicating way too much time to pursuing that phone and rationalizing all the reasons I need it. Of course the problem is not with the phone, but with my heart–a heart that longs for what it does not have. Idolatry, it seems, is alive and well.
We are prone to believe, I think, that idolatry is a problem we have evolved beyond. Those ancient Israelites bowed to a golden calf and tribes in South America prostrated themselves before wooden sculptures. But we, in the demystified west have no idols, do we? Greg Dutcher thinks we need to rediscover this little word, idolatry. “My prayer is that this book will help you in this regard, but in order to press forward, we have to take a look at an ugly word, and it’s a word that gets little press today. Idolatry is an old-fashioned word, consigned to social studies classes and Clive Cussler novels. But what if it’s alive and well, even in America? What if it’s a problem of such epidemic proportions that our unawareness of it is only making it worse? … The battle against idolatry is a fight for our lives, the lives of others, and most importantly, the reputation of Christ himself.” In You Are the Treasure That I Seek, Dutcher seeks to expose this idol and to equip Christians to battle against it.
Like any book that deals with a specific sin, Dutcher has to begin with bad news. He has to expose this sin and show how it is alive and operative in the lives of people today–people far removed from the day of stone gods and wooden idols. He defines idolatry as “cherishing, trusting, or fearing anything more than we cherish, trust, or fear God himself.” And in that light we can see how this is a plague in our day. How easy it is to cherish something, anything, more than I cherish God. “If a woman cannot find God’s presence and power sufficient to sustain her through a day, then idolatry has hunted her down. If that student’s Xbox fantasies shift from fun entertaining to ceaseless obsession, then idolatry has slipped through the back door and made itself at home. And when a husband stops seeing his wife as a God-given life partner and treats her only as an object for his own pleasure, then idolatry has done a good day’s work. None of these victims may realize how deep in the throes of God-substitutes they actually are, but that’s just fine with idolatry. Idolatry is a stealthy hunter.”
Having provided the bad news, and having encouraged Christians to hunt down idolatry in their own lives, Dutcher provides biblical wisdom to help them begin to deal with it. And, as we might expect, the cure for idolatry is finding hope and joy and true delight in God. “Being enamored with Christ is the best offensive weapon against idolatry. When idols call for our attention, we should flee, yes, but in fleeing we need to ask God to show us the excellencies of the Savior. Hearts that cherish, trust, or fear Jesus more than anything else prove to be barren soil for idols. Counterfeit saviors cannot grow in soil that has been reserved for Christ alone.” The one who finds joy and delight in Christ will find only a reflected joy in anything or anyone else.
The book concludes with a helpful pair of appendices, the first providing four solid case studies in idolatry with idols being as disparate and unexpected as hardwood flooring; text messaging; acceptance through sex; and pornography and the second providing a long list of Scripture passages, quotes and prayers useful in engaging idolatry.
You Are the Treasure That I Seek is a small book, but one that packs a punch. Dutcher exposes the myth that idols are made of wood and stone and shows instead that they can be anything that draws our hearts, our minds, our affections away from the Savior. The remedy he suggests is Bible-centered and gospel-focused. Well-illustrated and well-written, this is a book I am sure I will recommend often.
As for the iPhone, well, at some point it may make good sense for me to have one. But I know I cannot get one until I sort out my heart issues to make sure that if and when I do buy one, I am doing so for only the right reasons.