Sunday, August 20, 2006


Preaching at Bent Tree often invites some wonderful and challenging conversations. Last week, I met with an alcoholic friend (13 years dry) to follow up some thoughts on idolatry from the Gideon message. As it happens, people in recovery often speak of addictions like obsessions and she wondered if obsession and idolatry were really so different and if the Bible had more to say here. We looked at Peter's mention of mastery in 2 Peter 2.19 and Paul's equivocation of greed and idolatry in Colossians 3.5, but then she added something really intriguing: her first sponsor many years ago said that if you're thinking about it before bed and if it's the first thing you think of in the morning, then it's an obsession, whatever it is. That covers drugs, porn, people and even depression.

We turned to Deuteronomy 6.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

These words were pretty important. They even have their own name--like the way we name the Golden Rule. They're called the Shema and are still considered the most important prayer in Judaism. Jesus affirmed as much in Matthew 22.37. Look closely at verse 7: When you lie down and when you get up.

That sounds like obsession to me. Perhaps the Shema is God saying, "You are designed for obsession, and here it is. Me. You are to be obsessed with me. I alone am God. All else is idolatry. Love me with the entirety of your soul."

I get to preach again on New Year's Eve (I've had to say no to any dates beyond that for now). I'm really tempted to teach on the Shema. If I do, I want to spend some time studying this idea. If it's true, I'm betting all of our recovery folks would relate. Actually, I'm betting all the sinners would relate. What's your obsession?

1-The Noah and Gideon messages are up and linked on the right.
2-One of our elders has a friend who struggled with depression and another who still is. We met for lunch last week and had a great talk about depression and a lot of other things (like authenticity and the church). Anyway, it got me wondering if depression is really so different. In the end, depression is very selfish and a way of self-medicating just like alcohol or pills or porn, but controlling it is a bit more nefarious. In one regard, it's an obsession. In another regard, it is a disease. Depression differs in that it was often never invited and yet those who struggle with it sometimes nurse it because it takes you to a place that is strangely comforting although despairing. It is repulsive yet one cannot leave until released.


Hankinstien said...

" was often never invited and yet those who struggle with it sometimes nurse it because it takes you to a place that is strangely comforting although despairing."

It's almost like you can read my mind... ask me about this tomorrow...

And I would love to hear to teach on the Shema.

murph411 said...

Why no commitments after New Years Eve?

Steve said...

I could wax eloquent about something Rob bell said about overcommitment, but the truth is i just can't do the dates that are open ;-)

Wendy said...

I loved what we heard Rob Bell say on overcommitment and I think all pastors should hear it. I would also like to hear more about the Shema too! Is that what you were talking about last night when I was falling asleep?

texnartist said...


Based on your response to Paul Washers sermon and your comments on fruit. I am going to look at the fruit vs false teachers thing. It was brought up again today. I am going to do a study on fruit to see if you can use it to apply to Christians lives and not only false teachers. The passage that I am basing it on off the Top of my head is Matthew 3:8. Luke 3:7-18. I will do a complete study and email you with what I find.


texnartist said...


Tell me the error of what I have posted below. I am going to do a more indepth study, but from what is below where do I have a problem?

Is the passage talking about knowing a tree by its fruit in Mathew only relating to Teachers or is there other places in scripture that support this idea that Christians bear fruit and you will know them by it?

Matthew 21:33-46 - The kingdom of God taken from Jews to the Gentials to bear it's fruit.

Eph 5:1-21 - Believers bear fruit of light

Phillipians 1:1-9 - Believer bear fruit of righteousness

Col 1:9-14 - Believers bear fruit in Good works.

What I think that the above states is that Christians bear fruit. Why do we bear fruit?

John 15:8 - You bear fruit to prove (NASB) or show yourself (NIV) to be disciples of Christ.

Romans 7:4 - we are married to Christ so that we may bear fruit for God

We bear fruit to prove we are disciples and for God's Glory so if that fruit is absent then there is a problem. If when we examine ourselves we don't find fruit we should do something about it. Below are two warnings of what happens to trees without fruit.

Finally John's Warning - He warned the people coming to be baptized to bear fruit worthy of repentance - because the ax is laid at the foot of the tree and
those trees that do not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Jude 1 - Having gone the way of cain, error of Balaam and perished in the rebellion of Korah - they are Apostates without fruit.

So what am I missing?


Michelle said...

Steve, I think you're right on. I think we were made for heart, mind, and soul kind of devotion. People give that obsessive devotion to something: sports, tv shows, addictions. And when they don't have some external direction for the obsession they turn it inwards and such obsession with self will often lead us to either depression or a form of narcissism. We want to be a part of some "consuming fire" desperately. We will never be satisfied living mostly for Christ, only when He consumes us.

deersnake said...

This post reminded me of a quote I read somewhere - "wake of and think of Me". What a great reminder.

I think we can also become obsessed with where we find our identity, such as with work. Ask most people who they are and I think the majority of the time it will be some "work" answer - accountant, salesman, whatever. And given how unfulfilling work is, it's not surprising how miserable we (collectively) are.

Steve said...

Cody (this might be a lunch topic)!

I think you're right in idea--I haven't looked closely at the passages, but one addition would be Galtians 5:22-23 and one definition of fruit (there are more than one).

I think it's important to assess ourselves, but the inspection of other believers gets tricky. That's Jesus' point with the wheat and the tares--the two look identical until harvest so it's too dangerous to pull the weeds until then. On the other hand, apostate and false teachers are bringing harm to other believers and must be addressed (one could argue that the immoral marriage of 1 Cor. 5 was an issue as much because of the liberal danger it posed the church as it was because of the man's behaviour--funny how the sexual issues have always been more pressing). In many cases, the distinction is between those who are growing and those who have turned callous.

I wish I could find the essay, but C.S. Lewis spoke about this danger once, or something like it. He refers to the internal changes that happen in a person that may not be so evident to others but represent miles of progress in the one man. I never know the distance a person has traveled to arrive at their present state, so I have to be careful. I think that brings home Jesus' words in Matthew 7 although the context is different--He doesn't say we shouldn't remove the speck. He says we must first remove our own log so we can see clearly.

As to people who think themselves righteous because of a token prayer, I'm with you, but I'm not sure there's a way to prove it to them until the Spirit moves. Perhaps the prayer was a seed and the conversations that follow it draw them to later reflection. On the other hand, I'm thinking we'll always deal with damage done by other well-meaning folks. Acts and Paul's letters are full of it and it isn't always clear which of the trouble-makers may have actually been saved and still causing difficulty (I'm thinking about the Judaizers and how both James and Peter sometimes drifted toward it).

texnartist said...


I agree we can't see the heart so we shouldn't assume/think we know a person's state before God. I do think we can call people to repentance, and ask them to examine themselves.