Calvin Fridays: The Factory

Cement works

“From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 11, Section 8.

“‘So I said to them, “Let any who have gold take it off.” So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.'”- Exodus 32:24

This is, perhaps, John Calvin’s most famous quote. It’s a great one.

After God’s people have been delivered from their bondage in Egypt, while Moses is communing with God receiving The Commandments, Aaron starts up the fires and cranks up his factory. While his excuse to Moses is absolutely absurd, it rings true in a measure. The human heart just needs some great ingredients, some shiny stuff, and in the end, we will make an idol. “Put in good things, crank out horrendous objects,” is our motto here at Idols-R-Us. Gold was a great gift given to the Israelites. In fact, they plundered the Egyptians on their way out of Egypt and took their gold. God had provided it for them, and in turn, they threw it into a fire, melted it down, and concocted an idol. These aren’t strangers to God, either. They are God’s people who have seen His mighty hand of deliverance, and we are not far from them…

God gives us good things. He may give us health, he may give us wealth, he may give us good looks or a good job. He may give us great abilities and fun things to do. He gives us great people to interact with, to love. He gives us sunrises and sunsets, beaches and mountains, trees and flowers. But here at Idols-R-Us, we specialize in turning God’s gifts into little gods. In the end, if we are honest, even His people, at times, no, 90% of the time, do not want the Giver. We worship our God-given good health, thinking that it is in preserving the perfect balance of exercise and food intake that we can gain true life. We worship our God-given money and possessions, seeing them as the answer to the perfect life, the object of our greatest desire. We spend our lives at epic gyms that monetarily could rid a small village of hunger or build them a well in the name of Jesus, thinking that having a great body means possessing true meaning and purpose. We cling so tightly to our God-given jobs, thinking that if we do not have them, we have no purpose in life, no security, no stability. We turn our God-given abilities and activities into our identities, worshipping them. We, who are supposed to love God-given people, turn them into objects of lust, servitude, and springs to water us. We turn them into objects we need to fill us, not seeing them as people to love and serve for the glory of God. When all is said and done, this is our tendency. I do it, you do it, and the sweet, old lady next door does it. We all turn God-given gifts into God-hating temples of worship. And God is grieved. God is grieved because He alone deserves worship. He is grieved because we do not look beyond the gifts to the Giver. He is grieved because He knows that if His gifts are mistaken for Him, they will only bring us thirst and death. We, the ones who have seen God’s mighty hand of deliverance in Christ, do this. But for God’s people, He has provided a way for His displeasure to be dissolved…

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chasticement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”- Isaiah 53:5

In Christ, not only are His people forgiven, they are also healed. They are cleansed by the purifying Holy Spirit, and because of Christ, there is peace between God and them. And what’s more…

“And we all, with unvelieved face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”- 2 Corinthians 3:18

We are being transformed. Though we experience glory here in being reconciled to God in Christ, we are also being transformed to share in another degree of glory when the end comes. God has set the idol factories of His people ablaze. They are burning, and it is only a matter of time before they are done away with for good. The questions remain for today; what good, God-given gifts have i worshipped? How have i traded the Giver today? Let us come to Christ once more, who indeed is our soul’s desire and the Emmanuel who knows our pain, who has tasted death for His people, and who ever lives as a stream of Living Water, glorious and all satisfying to the praise of His glory and grace.


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