The Christians in Thessalonica turned from idols to serve the living and true God. Jesus has told us and shown us what sort of master he is. I want to look at my burdensome lists and consciously choose to do them in the service of the living and true God. I want to delete the tasks that are there in the service of idols.
Dare I put those lists in their place? After all they are merely minor tools to help me in the service of our loving gentle master. It is he who equips me with far superior tools to do and be what is needed. Have my lists been hijacked by idols? Are the lists running the show as I chase false gods, getting nowhere on a ‘to do’ list treadmill?
So today I would like to make a cake for our homegroup. Whose service am I in?
- The idol of the list: I’ve thought it, mentally noted it down – to not do it is to fail, it just needs to be done so that it is done
- The idol of impressing people, living up to other people’s (perceived?) expectations
- The idol of should/must in God’s view of me. This is a tricky customer. It incorporates the following erroneous elements:
- God needs me to do it, homegroup can’t be pleasing to him without it
- It’s my job
- I owe it to God/I need to do it for God to think well of me
- The idol of should/must in my view of myself – to boost my self worth, because my identity is tied up with doing that sort of thing.
- My gentle master as I submit the idea to him and see what I manage.
In TIME FOR EVERYTHING Matt Fuller helpfully creates a space of freedom as we serve God. He encourages us (and helps us!) to identify the Floor of Obedience – below which is neglect, and the Ceiling of Obedience – above which there is idolatry.
So back to my cake: In general it is not wrong to make a cake. I am free to make my cake and it could be a blessing to others as we gather together this evening as well as a task that I will enjoy (though less now that I have given up sugar and can’t lick out the bowl!!!) and given the correct circumstances be resourced by. What about making a cake today? Would making it push me below the floor of obedience to neglect? What else needs to happen today? I want to spend some time with each of my children, the Christmas tree is due to come down, I am planning Sunday school and want to pray and study before the meeting, it would be loving to drop a line to my parents and to prayerfully prepare a little for participating in homegroup. I also plan to have a rest so that I am refreshed for the children when they come home and for homegroup this evening. These are the priorities it needs to come after and/or serve. I could for example make the cake with a child!
The ceiling of obedience we have looked at. Any hints of idolatry need to be fled from. If avoiding neglect doesn’t preclude it as an option I will need to prayerfully approach it asking for help to flee from idols and serve the living and true God.
In one sense this is a silly case study – but our battles are not against flesh and blood, or against eggs and flour. In these little choices and mental gymnastics much more is happening than meets the eye. The natural courses of our hearts and minds are being formed, good paths forged, or more firmly established, or reclaimed, or unhealthy paths travelled over once again making us just that bit more likely that we will take them next time.
Anyway – if I am going to get any of those priorities done, let alone the cake – I had better get home!