And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)
Sunday, February 16, 2014
This post is a reposting from an earlier date.
Over the course of the many years I have been at our church often, too often, I have spoken of my youthful desire for a Ferrari. I say too often, for in an evaluation of my sermons I may mention it more than once a month. I do so regularly because it symbolizes something that many can identify with. In the world Ferrari is the ultimate car make to own. Sure there are others that are faster to 60 MPH, greater in top speed, more fuel efficient and practical. But no other car maker has the worldwide clout that Ferrari has. No other builder of automobiles has a theme park constructed on it’s reputation as a basis for a day’s entertainment. In all of racing history, Ferrari is the team to beat. When you drive a Ferrari it makes a boast that no other can rival.
Growing up, my bedroom was adorned in praise of Ferrari. I had posters, prints, and personal photographs all arranged for maximum motivation. My life’s goal was to own as many Ferrari’s as possible. I based my career choice (at the time) and schooling all in pursuit of the prancing stallion of Italy. When others in Daytona Beach followed NASCAR, I followed Formula 1. Just as magazines promote our pleasures and hobbies, I would drive all the way to Ormond Beach to a newsstand that carried a rare publication Cavillino, the Ferrari namesake magazine. All this was to indulge in the latest news and photographs.
It was not an obsession. However this enchantment was enough to color my conversations, dreams, and identity. At one point I was simply known among adults and collegiate as “the Ferrari Kid”. Much akin to how we are known amongst our friends today for who we are, there was I.
But in all the years of using this example I have rarely gone to lengths to explain this endeavor of mine. You see, Ferrari was actually a god to me. By owning a Ferrari I would be entitled to all the rights, privileges, and respect that I bestowed on such people. I wanted to be part of the club. Today, when I talk about my fascination with Ferrari I hope that you too can identify the idols of your life that have influenced and often have ensnared your walk with Christ.
Owning a Ferrari symbolized freedom, power, authority, and a smug “I am certainly better than you are” mentality. It represented conquering the world in greater form that Alexander the Great. In essence, I was convinced that I deserved such a vehicle to let the foolish and simple know that they would soon be dealing with a master. My involvement with Ferrari was akin to worship. I praised the car and sought it out to serve me. This is exactly what Adam and Eve hoped to achieve in eating the forbidden fruit.
Thus, Ferrari was my idol. There is nothing wrong at all with owning a Ferrari. But when ownership or participation in anything violates the litmus test of the Ten Commandments it becomes an idol. Again, I was not obsessed. But to the degree that I placed my hopes, desires, and affections upon Ferrari, it certainly qualified as an idol of the heart.
When the command describes not to make any graven image, this qualifies. You do not have to actually own something in order to worship it. A rich man can be as obsessed with things as well as a poor man. The lesson in this is that idolatry is a subtle crafty snare. The worshippers of such idols are quick to defend and justify the idol’s worth. We say “it isn’t as bad as you think”, “there is nothing morally wrong with it”, or “It does not affect my life”. But take that idol away and what is the response towards our joy and the One True God?
Thus I am most grateful for God revealing these things to me by the truth of the gospel. Everything I wanted in the Ferrari found a God exalting replacement in Christ. What Christ has done on the cross is to put into perspective the failings of the world to satisfy. He has shown His complete supremacy as the only One worthy of worship. He gives us an opportunity to repent of our serving the world and to embrace Him as our love. But, He makes a demand. We must deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Him.
Paul put it well:
Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.