What makes an enjoyment idolatrous?

John Piper in one of his articles did an excellent job of digging into this matter. Through a series of 12 points, Piper helps us recognize when our enjoyments are being misused.

In short, he wants us to make sure all our enjoyments are completely God-centered.

If you consider any of these points to be “too picky”, it may be a sign that you need to look more seriously at God’s call for you to be a Great Commandment person.

Here are Piper’s 12 points of self-examination:

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is forbidden by God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is disproportionate to the worth of what is desired

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not permeated with gratitude

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not see in God’s gift that God himself is more to be desired than the gift

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is starting to feel like a right, and our delight is becoming a demand

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it draws us away from our duties

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it awakens a sense of pride that we can experience this delight while others can’t

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is oblivious or callous to the needs and desires of others

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it does not desire that Christ be magnified as supremely desirable through the enjoyment

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when it is not working a deeper capacity for holy delight

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss ruins our trust in the goodness of God

Enjoyment is becoming idolatrous when its loss paralyzes us emotionally so that we can’t relate lovingly to other people.


A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?


What part of your life belongs to God?

What right does God have to your life?

What does it mean to commit to Great Commandment living?

How can you take steps forward in having God rule over all of your life?

Are you clear on what it means to live your life in stewardship before God?

These are excellent questions.

They can also be difficult to answer. Not just because we are uncomfortable with the question itself, we are also not always clear about the answers.

Being serious about God requires action, submission and self examination. Of course all this needs to be under the clear and gracious guide of Scripture.

Brad Hambrick, wrote this article for the Grace and Truth website entitled, “Nine Questions to Help You Steward All of Your Life for God’s Glory”.

Hambrick’s article is not exhaustive or overbearing. Instead it is a helpful (we need that) and clear (we also need that) article meant to help us move forward.

If your heart belongs to God, then you want to live more fully for him. Spend a few minutes reading Hambrick’s “Nine Questions”. Better yet, bookmark it or print it out. You will find your heart encouraged to take good steps toward your Heavenly Father who wants to help you with each of them.



“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

God asks for everything from us.

No apologies. No exceptions.

God provides lots of grace and patience for our slow, gradual and stuttering progress. But in the end, there are no compromises, God wants and expects all that we are.

We refer to this expectation of God, as The Great Commandment (GCT). We do so because Jesus when asked to identify the “most important” commandment of all gave that answer.

Why does God expect so much?

Because He deserves all that we are – since all that is, comes from and is sustained by Him!

There is nothing unreasonable in God’s expectation; there is great unreasonableness in our resistance

Our response to the Great Commandment is a good test for how we love God

If GCT living sounds wise and is desirable, that indicates our heart is soft and wise open to God.

But if this command seems, intrusive, unfair or burdensome, it indicates our heart is at least partially closed off to God.

Assuming that we truly want to grow in our GCT living, there are still significant obstacles. Part of the challenge is that we don’t fully understand what it even means for God to fully have our life.

Great Commandment living is something to affirm each day as our great desire for “today”

God is worthy of our all and God having our all is all good. Indeed there is no better way to live our life, walk through our day, or use our time and resources. There is no fuller beauty of character, no higher nobility of purpose

Great Commandment living is something to be offered up to God each day

We need to freshly submit our hearts to Him, because each day we are freshly and routinely distracted from doing so. If we don’t intentionally hand over the keys to God each day, we will automatically live as if we are in charge.

Great Commandment living is something to be discussed with God throughout the day

We know partially what it means to give our all to God, but the fact is we are ignorant of GCT living, and we are often blind to where we fail at it. We need the Holy Spirit’s ongoing conviction, instruction and inspiration.

Great Commandment living is something to be discussed with one another

We need encouragement and help from one another if we are to consistently think about, desire and improve in GCT living.

Great Commandment living is our destiny

The GCT is not only an expectation of God; it is a description of what God will fulfill in us. This is how we will interact with God throughout eternity. For Great Commandment living describes what Jesus’ heart is like. And 1 John 3:2 wonderfully tells us, “when (Jesus) appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”.

At this moment, does God have all of your heart?

How would you know?

What would be different?

These are good questions to talk with God about today.


As a pastor I have watched many people leave our church for the terribly sad reason that they don’t want to submit to the biblical call and standards given to the church.

These are self-proclaimed Christians who in the same sentence will claim they really do love God, but they are not willing to change the clearly unbiblical behavior or attitude in question. Quite often I have been barely able to even deal with the standard in question. This is because the person is so focused on being resentful over the fact that I would  dare challenge their sin.

At these times I wonder what they think the role of pastor / shepherd is supposed to be? There is certainly no recognition that I am also guilty before God if I knowingly ignore and refuse to deal with sinful behavior. And I certainly am not exercising love toward church members when I avoid confronting what is harmful to their soul and eventually to the health of the church.

Trevin Wax does an excellent job of turning the biblical account (Matthew 19:16-22) of the “rich young ruler” into a modern story. In this article Trevin approaches the story as if it was a young man today who tells us why he is walking away from the demands of Christianity.

I think you will see themes we often hear from people today. It’s the classic tale of someone who says they “love” Jesus, but they don’t like the church. As you read, may it also refresh your heart against the subtle lies that lead us to upholding our own will over the will of Jesus who is serious when he claims to be Lord of all.


Removing Obstacles to Serving the Gospel  

1 Timothy 2:8-15

In vs 1-7 Paul exhorted us to prayer so our lives would be “peaceful and quiet”

The reason is so that our lives will not be distracted from serving the gospel

Verses 8-15 continue Paul’s thought of not being distracted from serving the gospel 

Everything in chapters 1-2 is meant to protect the mission of the local church

We are to be watchful about life in the church

Paul brings up sample areas of watchfulness for men and for women

A watchful area in church life for men (v8)

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling

The point here is not the outward stance of prayer, but the inward stance of our heart

Holy hands lifted, means we have a holy heart bowed

We must not think God is pleased with our service if we are holding on to sin

Pride is a significant area of sin for us that is incompatible with living for the gospel

The anger & quarreling involves what was described in chapter 1

Some men were immersed in senseless theological debating, which exalted their own thoughts

Men are definitely more vulnerable to this than women

Claiming to protect gospel truth, some men make themselves a stumbling block to its work

A watchful area in church life for women (vs 9-10)

Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works

Like men, women also need to focus on the inward over the outward.

In an area where women are vulnerable, they should not get caught up in outward beauty over inward character

The point here is not to eliminate braided hair or jewelry, just as the point for men about the outward posture of prayer

Wealthy women at that time took hair fashion and jewelry to extravagance

In doing so, the heart of why we gather together, and how we care for one another was being obscured

It is not wrong to look nice, but it is always wrong to lose perspective over it

Paul is giving us a principle, not a rule (such as don’t wear braids or jewelry)

The principle is that our inward godliness should lead our external habits and behaviors

Does fashion or godliness drive our appearance and modesty?

In vs 11-15 Paul continues on the role of women in church

The prevailing culture doesn’t simply disagree with this, they despise and ridicule it. They view it as proof that the Bible is outdated

Paul is not attacking women or degrading them

v11 actually contained a radical elevation of a woman’s role

He instructs the church to ‘let woman learn’; don’t hold them back from it

The role of woman was at that time was viewed like much of the middle-east does today. Women were possessions who had few rights. The education of woman was seen as wasteful

Paul is encouraging the training of women in the word of God

However, Paul then does add what is “not permitted” (v12)

Women are to know God’s word and can teach, but they are not to have authority or teach “over” men

Galatians 3:28 tells us all believers are equal before God, but God has ordained an order of authority and submission

Part of Eve’s sin (v14), was her failure to observe that order

Submission is an essential perspective of biblical Christianity

Submission was required of Christ: who was equal to the Father, yet submitted to Him

Submission is at the heart of the Gospel: we submit to Christ as our Lord

Submission is essential to a biblical family and to a healthy church  

Without submission, we cannot fulfill the biblical picture of godliness

A few thoughts to flesh out our understanding of submission

All submission is limited, only God is to receive absolute submission

The abuse of authority, may be a greater sin than the neglect of submission

Since submission is biblical, it is good and we should never be ashamed of it

v15 contains a statement that is difficult to understand

But it has to fit this context and the rest of Scripture

After mentioning submission, Paul now affirms the unique role of woman

Not all women have children (Paul elsewhere praises the single-mindedness of those who don’t marry)

But child-bearing is blessed and the honored role of womanhood

What should be our take home from vs 8-15?

Freedom to follow our desires and opinions is an unworthy goal

While submission to a life that serves Christ and his gospel is the goal that should rule us


 Are we serious about the church? 

Two weeks ago we looked at the importance of the local church

We examined the New Testament picture of the church, and how we are to fulfill that picture

This included the principle that God appoints leaders in the church which means He wants us to follow them

However, our culture does not like authority, and that is increasingly affecting how believers treat the church

Hebrews 13:17 may be the strongest statement the Bible has on our response to the local church. If we understand and become comfortable with the most challenging passage on taking the local Church seriously, we will have healthier churches

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you”

To obey and submit are not popular themes, yet here they are, so what does it mean?

It will help us if we back up to where the subject begins in Hebrews 13:7-9

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings”

Hebrews 13 first addresses our response to past church leaders

Those leaders are now gone, but we are to “remember” their testimony

To remember them means we still adhere to the unchanging truths of Scripture they gave us

There is a lot at stake in this, because v9 remind us there is bad teaching out there

In v17 Hebrews then addresses how we respond to current leaders

The Greek word for “obey” carries the sense of having confidence and trust in someone

To submit to pastors mean we are under the ministry they have been given by God for us

Taken together, God is telling the Church to receive and hold the ministry He has given pastors for the health of our soul

Let’s be more specific on how we fulfill Hebrews 13

We certainly want to guard against any abuse of this principle (such as cult leaders who demand absolute authority). God is the only person to receive our complete submission, He alone is Lord

We also want to guard against ignoring this principle

Our submission to any leadership is based upon the parameters of their authority.

When God tells us to submit to our pastors, that submission is defined by the responsibilities God has given them.

If we look at the role given to pastors, we see what this submission means

1.  Pastors are to teach God’s word and declare his gospel (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

So we are to be present to hear that teaching and have a heart to receive it

2.  Pastors are to equip believers to serve Christ and each other (Ephesians 4:11-12)

So we are to embrace being equipped so our lives are more effective

3.  Pastors are to shepherd the congregation (1 Peter 5:2)

So we are to be connected to the congregation instead of being on the fringes

4.  Pastors are to lead in decisions of operation and direction (1 Peter 5:2)

So we are to participate in what it means for our church to move forward

What if we disagree or don’t like what is happening?

If biblical principles are violated, we should be “critical”

If your preferences are violated, we ought to be submissive

We should share our thoughts, but in the end we are to stand with our church

Submission is a central attitude of biblical Christianity

Submission is practiced by Christ who is equal to the Father, yet submits to Him

Submission is at the heart of the Gospel, as we submit to Christ as our Lord

Submission is an example to be set by the pastors themselves (1 Peter 5:3)

Perhaps this seems like a self-serving topic to you

To some degree it is, just as the end of Hebrews 13:17 tells us

If we treat these things lightly we are clinging to own ways

Embracing God’s order means his agenda is what we want most

As we fulfill what God asks of His Church will give all of us more “joy”

The question for each of us to answer; Are we serious about the church?


I read a review at the Gospel Coalition on a book that sounds promising. I can recommend the book but not the author, because it is anonymously written. The writer wanted to underline the theme of their book entitled Embracing Obscurity by remaining …obscure.

As the unknown writer tells us:

“The trouble with you and me and the rest of humanity is not that we lack self-confidence (as we’re told by the world) but that we have far too much self-importance”

If you are not sure about this statement, quiet yourself down and listen to our world. We are a people of concentrated self-centeredness. We grasp for attention, we get offended when we are not receiving attention. Our desire to be somebody is so great, that a significant amount of television content is made up of people revealing their foolishness in the attempt to be famous. Or, as we call it – “reality shows”.

I used to think that description was off the mark because much of it seems so contrived, but the more I think about it, people doing all they can to have others look at them is real.  It is not very smart, and it is opposite of godly, but it is very real.

And if you think this description is not accurate about you, because you are not trying to promote yourself to the world, consider the fact that you are still laboring to promote yourself to yourself. We are all seeking to be the center of our own world.

We want to be the center of attention, we want to get our way, we want to be made happy, and we want to be liked.  All of this takes more of our energy than the labor of submitting our life to the Lord of all – who actually deserves to be the center of everyone’s world?

Trillia Newbell who wrote this review of Embracing Obscurityfor the Gospel Coalition, shares these thought about the book:

If you don’t read anything else in the book, read chapter 4: “Embracing Significance;” put the book down, and then reread it. Here is where we begin to see that the Christian is somebody—in Christ! Our significance and worth are not derived from ourselves; rather, our worth is related to the worthiness of Christ, because of the value of knowing Christ, of being known by Christ and of being in-Christ. It’s all about him!

If you can get a copy of this book by whomever – it looks like it will be worth the investment of time and money. But even if you don’t read the book, please consider who is being pursued as the center of your attention. Most likely it is you and that is something we all should change.


Last week I had to fill in to preach at short notice, so I had not prepared my Sermon Leftovers. Hopefully they are still good a week late!

Who do we serve?

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” Luke 16:13

God wants to have our undivided heart

Everything belongs to God and is meant to glorify and serve 

When we fail to see ourselves as servants for God, we fail to see His worthiness

God is far more worthy than anything else we can serve

We like worthy causes because we feel they give our life value

Only in serving God’s agenda do we find the most worthy cause, because it is eternal

In Luke 16, money is the ‘other Master’ Jesus warns against

Jesus focuses on money because it represents our agenda. Money is the engine for becoming our own master. The danger of money is how it’s so easy to idolize.

We often look to money to fill God’s role

We look to money to have a sense of security and peace

How can we know the place money has in our heart?

  • Our decision making – where does money fit in compared with God’s word
  • Our generosity: Randy Alcorn wrote, “Giving is the antidote for materialism”

We may tell ourselves that we are balancing God and other stuff

But that in itself is a compromise, because it implies that God has “a” place in our life, when He wants all our life!

Luke 16 tells us there has to be a distinct order of place

We do need balance, but it is a balance under God, not with Him

This means God rules over every interest we have

Let nothing be neutral, being God’s servant is all encompassing

Where we don’t make God master we will be the master

A voice whispers it’s not necessary go overboard with God, but our lives need God to be fully Lord

Many of us are passionate about the coming election because it chooses a leader over us, are we this passionate about who is Lord over us?

Having a divided heart has consequences

1. We dishonor God by minimizing His value

Rather than the all glorious God, he is God with some glory. God becomes an option for us; He is in the mix of life

What does your life say to God?

The central principle of serving God above all, is His worthiness

Worship has irreplaceable importance in making God highest

2.  We try to use God to “serve” our agenda

We begin to see God’s role in our life to be that of a genie

Like the centurion Jesus praises in Matthew 8, do we expect Jesus to take the role of Lord, and do we expect ourselves to be His servant?

We need to change how we define success, to be what honors God

If we start each day this way, then serving Him will be a priority

If we examine what we do this way, our decisions will honor Him

3. We resent God as intrusive in our life

Living for our wants cannot co-exist with full obedience to God

Are we bothered by reminders to be more devoted to God?

A warning sign is when we consider full obedience to be bit fanatical

If Jesus is our master we will “despise” other masters who seek this role

4. The end result will be wasted life (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Jesus is the only master that will endure in eternity, so only what serves him now will last 

A well lived life serves God in the smallest things (Luke 16:10)

Being faithful in little things demonstrates that He is truly Lord of all!

How do you view God’s role in “very little” things?

An encouragement to us is that this is the pathway to being faithful in “very much”

If God is not Lord, our efforts will serve what opposes God

Luke16 says we cannot serve two masters, because they have different wills

In areas of life where God is not our Lord, another agenda is leading us

Where is God less than first in your life?