You must never let your enthusiasm for the gift replace your worship of and service for the Giver.

You must never let your enthusiasm for the gift replace your worship of and service for the Giver.

God asks a stinging question of the children of Israel at the beginning of the book of Jeremiah, a question that should cause all of us to search our own hearts:

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer. 2:11–13)

It is a significant spiritual dynamic to consider. It was at the root of the spiritual failures of Israel. It poses a spiritual threat to us all. What we celebrate as a blessing from God can become an idol that rules and directs our hearts. It happens too easily and so subtly. The genuine obedience that was the fruit of grace morphs into self-righteous pride that I parade before other people. The house that I once viewed as an undeserved gift of God becomes an idol that gobbles up the thoughts and desires of my heart. That relationship that I once saw as a blessing from God’s good hand replaces him as the source of my identity. The theological knowledge that is the gift of the illumining ministry of the Holy Spirit becomes the reason why I look down on those who don’t know what I know. Not only have I replaced God as the center of my spiritual hope, but I look for spiritual hope to things that are empty and cannot and will not ever deliver. I have replaced the fountain of living water with wells that are completely dry, and I may not even know that I’ve done it. Here is the biblical principle—it’s not that I desire only evil things. No, the struggle is more subtle than that. It’s that good things can replace the Giver of those things in my heart. A desire for a good thing becomes a bad thing when that desire becomes a ruling thing. It’s not wrong to desire theological knowledge, personal comfort, or the respect of others, but these things must not rule our hearts. Here is another argument for the depth of our need for grace. We all still have wandering hearts. We are all still tempted to put the gift in the place that the Giver alone should occupy.

Tripp, Paul David. New Morning Mercies (pp. 658-659). Crossway.


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