Thursday, August 20, 2009

You are the treasure that I seek by Greg Dutcher

You are the treasure that I seek: But there's a lot of cool stuff out there, Lord,
by Greg Dutcher, Discovery House, 2009, 140pp.
1 John concludes on what seems like a rather strange note, 1 John 5:21. Idolatry - why would that be a problem for Christians? But as Dutcher demonstrates, just because we don't bow down and worship gods of wood and gold doesn't mean that we are free from idols. An idol can be anything that takes the place of God as our supreme delight and desire. A pastor can make an idol of the approval of his flock. The lust for material success can be just as much an idol as the most base graven image. What you will find here is an expose of the subtlety of idolatry. If you are anything like me, you might find that you are more of an idolater than you might have expected.
A book on the evils of idolatry might seem a bit heavy going, but Dutcher writes with a light touch and with some wry humour. His handling of the subject is steeped in Scripture and is full of thought-provoking illustrations. Dutcher knows that there is no silver bullet that will kill off our tendency towards idolatry once and for all. Believers are going to have to struggle with this problem for the rest of their lives. But he does not offer a dose of sanctification by guilt-trip, showing us the God-dishonoring folly of idolatry, and leaving us to wallow in vain regret. Neither is this a self-book that takes a therapeutic approach to idolatry. You will find no psychobabble here. Rather Dutcher points us to the cross of Jesus. When we commit idolatry we exchange the truth of God for a lie. On the cross Jesus exchanged our sin for his righteousness. He atoned for our guilt and decisively broke the power of sin. The sacrificial death of Christ only hope for idolatrous sinners. In the light of the cross we sing,
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to thy blood.
The book is full of good advice on how to diagnose the presence of idols in our lives and how to avoid idolatry in the first place. The best method of attack is to retreat from those things that have a tendency to take the place of God in our lives. Too busy watching TV to have a decent evening Quiet Time? Switch off the box. Can't go without a lunchtime sticky bun? Don't go to the bakers. Flee idolatry! But above all, Dutcher urges his readers to cherish Christ for who he is. In a Piperesque final chapter he encourages us to be so captivated by the beauty, majesty and sheer loveliness of Jesus that idols loose their fatal attraction. Appendicies offer a series of case studies and provide a useful first-aid kit for recovering idolaters.
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne.
And worship only thee.
Any book that helps us to sing Cowper's words with fresh urgency can't be bad.
* Thanks to the author and publisher for kindly sending me a review copy.

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