Gospel Treason Interview

December 12, 2012

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The BCC Author Interview Q & A with Brad Bigney

BCC Staff: As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted Christian authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Brad Bigney as he talks about his new book, Gospel Treason by P & R Publishing.

BCC: “Brad, thanks for joining us. Your book has a very interesting title. Please share with our readers why you titled the book Gospel Treason?”

BB: “Even though the book is about idolatry, I titled it Gospel Treason because the heart of idolatry is really that we’re turning away from the glory and all-satisfying goodness of what Christ has once-and-for-all done to solve our biggest problem, and instead looking to someone or something else in this life to truly satisfy. So it’s high treason. It’s what Romans 1 talks about when it says we’ve exchanged the glory of God for something created in this world, and the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:23-25). It’s really trying to live on substitutes.”

BCC: “What are some of the most common ‘substitutes’ or idols that Christians are most guilty of?”

BB: “While Christians are certainly capable of stepping into gross sins of every sort, where most Christians get in trouble is in wanting even a good thing too much. The Puritans referred to it as an inordinate affection. What you want is good; you just want it too much. And you’ve started to build your world and identity around that instead of your Savior and the Gospel.”

BCC: “Yes, the Puritans even called it ‘overmuch love.’ What are some examples of these inordinate affections and overmuch love?”

BB: “One of the most common things I run into as a pastor and counselor is someone who desperately wants to have a godly marriage. That’s a great and biblical desire. But our sinful flesh can take that desire and twist it into an ugly demand, so that we start waking up every day with that as our main focus, refusing to please God, or be content, or trust God with anything short of exactly the kind of godly marriage I was hoping for. And it leads to bitterness, depression, and often sinful behavior, as the person begins to shut down, but idolatry is really what’s at the root of it because their sense of joy and well-being is all riding on that one great desire or hope. And so it begins to affect everyone around them—especially those closest to them.  Our idols take a huge toll on those closest to us.”

BCC: “Brad, as you know, a very vital question related to this is, ‘Then, is it wrong to have desires? Are desires in themselves automatically sinful?’”

BB: “That’s a great question. No, it’s not wrong to have desires, hopes, and aspirations, but as Christians we need to be conscious of the fact that nothing in this world (even a Christian marriage) will ever fully satisfy; it was not designed to do so. C.S. Lewis said it so well in his great chapter on hope at the end of Mere Christianity when he said:

‘If I find in myself a desire that nothing in this world fully satisfies, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.’ 

Idolatry deceives us into trying to get fully satisfied right here and now, apart from Christ, and it always leads to disappointment and confusion. Marriage, as good as it is, was never designed to fully satisfy you and bear the weight of all your expectations. It can’t. It’ll crumple. Children are a blessing but can never bear the weight of fully satisfying you. Work, hobbies, health, and even ministry opportunities were never designed to fully satisfy you at the deepest level. Only Christ can do that.”

BCC: “Brad, it’s obvious that you are passionate about this subject…”

BB: “This subject more than any other has been one of the great awakenings in my life. My salvation was first, then an understanding of the sovereignty of God over all things was second.  And then an understanding of the idols of my own heart was a third major breakthrough for me in understanding why I do what I do, and why it’s so hard to consistently put to death certain sins. You see, when you start addressing idolatry, you’re getting after the sin beneath the sin. Idolatry focuses on the heart motivations as to why you do what you do. And most of us live blind to this and self-deceived because Jeremiah 17:9 says the ‘heart is deceitfully wicked and who can know it?’ A biblical understanding of idolatry dramatically changed my life and exposed how far I had drifted from the gospel. Over twenty years ago, an understanding of idols of the heart was a major breakthrough in my own marriage struggles, and the things that I learned about my own heart changed the way I approach life and ministry.”

BCC: “What are some of the reasons why it is so important to talk about idolatry today?”

BB: “The problem of idolatry is not peripheral—it’s central. Anything that prevents the Gospel from having center stage in your life will dramatically affect the way you live and hinder the degree to which you can glorify God, because when the Gospel loses center stage, your spiritual immune system shuts down, leaving you susceptible to so many other sins. That’s why, in 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, Paul stresses the priority of the Gospel when he says, ‘Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand… For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…’”

BCC: “How would you address those that say idolatry is largely an Old Testament problem?”

BB: “Just consider the last little verse in the New Testament book of 1John. It’s worth noting how John ends his letter. After giving us 105 verses on the importance of a warm, loving fellowship with Christ our Savior, how does the apostle of love wrap it all up? He closes in 1 John 5:21, with this sober warning: ‘Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.’ Did John lose his train of thought? Is he changing subjects? Not at all. You see, Gospel treason—Gospel drift—inevitably leads to idolatry because our hearts don’t just drift aimlessly; the drift is always away from the Gospel, away from our Savior, and into the grip of something or someone else. So, the last line in John’s letter leaves us asking the most basic question of all: Has something or someone besides Jesus Christ taken the title deed of your heart? Does something or someone else hold your heart’s trust, loyalty, and desire?”

BCC: “Since Christians know that Bible warns us so often about idolatry, how is it that so many of us can still be so unaware of how often we’re moving into it?”

BB: “Idolatry most often flies under the radar. Let me illustrate how this happens. Nobody wakes up and says, “I’m going to start living for the approval and affection of my husband. Starting right now, this will be my ruling passion, and I will refuse to find comfort in God or His Word until I get the approval and affection from my husband that I crave.’ Nobody says that out loud. Yet millions of people—including Christians—live this way without even knowing it. They’re trapped and miserable because they have made a functional god of something or someone other than the one true living God, which leads to misery and chaos every time.

And part of what makes this battle so tough is that we don’t recognize the idolatry we’ve bought into. We don’t see that we’re building our life around an idol (marriage, kids, job, hobbies, etc.), but God does, and He loves us too much to help us chase our idols. In fact, He’s a jealous God. That’s why He says in Isaiah 42:8, ‘I am God, that is My name; and My glory I will not share with another, nor My praise with graven images.’”

BCC: “So what’s the biblical process for addressing idols of the heart, for addressing Gospel treason?”

BB: “The answer is not just to say ‘No’ to idols. It’s to cultivate a revival of gratitude for the Gospel because idols struggle to take root in the soil of a grateful heart. Gospel gratitude is the ‘weed-be-gone’ that can keep our hearts clear of idols that constantly swarming back and forth over the altar of our hearts. And it’s a constant battle to stay vigilant. John Calvin got it right when he said, ‘The heart is a factory of idols.’ That’s why redemption and the glory of God are the big themes that run through the Bible. Why? Because God knows we drift and need to be brought back again and again to the Savior, and to the sin-shattering, idol-smashing Gospel. In Gospel Treason I lay out a plan that will help you identify and destroy the idols that keep you enslaved to certain sins in your life, sins that keep you from experiencing Gospel joy and freedom. I want to lead you on a journey that I think will help you pursue holiness and fight sin much more effectively, as you learn to keep the main thing the main thing.”

BCC: “Brad, along with Gospel Treason, what are some other resources that could help someone who wants to dig deeper into this?”

BB: “If you go to my website there’s actually a free study guide that you can download that goes along with the book. More than half of our small groups at church have used this as they read and studied Gospel Treason together. From the website you can also access a series of messages by the same title that I just completed that complement the book and dig into idolatry further. Some other great books that would add to your understanding are Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods and Paul Tripp’s Lost in the Middle.”

BCC: “Brad, what final word would you like to leave with our readers on this vital subject?”

BB: “A great place to start is to simply pray Psalm 139:23-24, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me…’”

BCC: “Thank you, Brad, for writing this important book and for introducing our Biblical Counseling Coalition readers to it.”


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