Finding myself in a reading void, I pulled a book off the shelf to give it another go. In 2002 my father gave me Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, by Soren Kierkegaard. My previous underlines stopped about three chapters in, i.e. I never finished. Starting anew, I know why I never got through it. What strange writing! I feel very challenged trying to sift my way through his words: the style of argumentation and the repetition. This time, though, I will conquer; I'm on chapter 6, approaching the half-way mark.
Despite the challenge, the main point is coming through, purity of heart is the opposite of double-mindedness. And as I am confronted with my double-mindedness, my fortress of pride is taking a beating. Here is the verse from which Kierkegaard's treatise was birthed:
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8
If I want purity of heart, which Jesus said will allow me to see God, I need to let go of (or, better, be rescued from) my double-mindedness. Being OPEN to purity of heart means being OPEN to exposure, admitting my double-mindedness to myself, God, and others. Mr. Kierkegaard addresses some of the ways we are prone to double-mindedness: wanting reward more than God, living for God out of fear of punishment, and other chapters I have not gotten to yet. Already I feel beaten up by the truth in his words, not sure I want to go on to those chapters! Knowing that he closes the book with several chapters under the heading "WHAT THEN MUST I DO?" is the driving force pushing me through the tough stuff; at least there's hope coming. I hope!
After several days of ego-bruising reading with my Danish philosopher buddy, our pastor got up in the pulpit on Sunday and had the audacity to talk about idols! Geez, Lord, are you trying to tell me something? The pastor is in the middle of a sermon series on work, and this Sunday he did not shy away from talking about the idolatry of work, preaching out of the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11. He specifically highlighted two ways we idolize work: money and fame. As with all idols, what makes them such is when a good thing becomes the ultimate thing. With almost everything Ryan said I was able to shake my head in agreement: I know what you mean; that's me, too; yep, that hits the nail on the head.
Idols are pretty, shiny, alluring, and seem to offer the satisfaction our hearts desire. Instead, they always leave us longing for more, if they don't destroy us. How much money is enough? Just a little bit more. How much prestige and honor is enough? Just a little bit more. Something good happens to boost our faith in our idols, but too-soon we find ourselves wishing the boost had been juuuust a little bit higher.
I have always found this verse from Jonah 2:8 convicting:
Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Every idol is worthless. Every idol keeps us from God's loving-kindness.
Our idols keep us from the Lord, so far from Him. The verse from James 4:8 reminds us of our need to have our hearts purified for us to see God. Our double-mindedness, as we try to love and serve other masters along with God, leads us further away from Him, not to mention how it keeps us from what He longs to give us and how He wants to use us. Recognizing our idolatry is an invitation to repent! Verses nine and ten of James four continue in this way:
Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
He will lift you up! What a promise!!
God is not looking for success stories. He is looking for humble servants who know they can trust their Lord. He can free us from idols that chain us to worry, doubt, and fear, for He knows our needs before we even ask Him.
Running through town this morning in the quiet of the early hour, I thought about how desperately I want to be free. Those who belong to Christ are already free; our place as heirs in the Kingdom of God is secure. Blessed truth of the Good News!! But we are not Home yet, so we must learn to keep our eyes fixed on our Father, forsaking all other pretty, shiny, alluring idols that try to turn our head. Purity of heart starts with purity of sight, eyes only for our Lord.
James, earlier in chapter four, reminds me of one BIG way to keep my eyes steady:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
You do not have, because you do not ask God. We are often at war with ourselves and at war with those around us, and we - believers, saved by grace, loved by God, oh so secure in Him - forget about God. We forget that we can seek and trust Him for forgiveness, for hope, for restoration, for guidance, and for provision. I spent too many hours last week worrying, warring within myself and at war with my family and my circumstances. I was so thankful when my eyes passed over those words: You do not have, because you do not ask God.
Feebly, I am asking, ashamed that I wait so long, every time, to remember my God. I plan to keep asking and see if we can't shed some of these idols together. Boldness will come, so will glory - His!
Time to Take Action
What do you want that you do not have? What are you longing for? How are you worshiping at the feet of idols waiting for them to fulfill you and your requests? What is going on in your heart? I can direct you to only one place, a person. He is safe and He is able. Humble yourself and He will lift you up. May you know freedom in Him.