“You Are The Treasure That I Seek”June 29, 2009
Suppose your body was ridden with a life-threatening disease. Would you not want an immediate diagnosis? And say the diagnosis was made in quick time, wouldn’t you desperately desire a prescription for the problem?
Well Greg Dutcher (pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in Maryland) is convinced that such a malady exists in your soul and mine. In his inaugural book “You are the Treasure That I seek (but there’s a lot of cool stuff out there, Lord)”, Dutcher exposes this spiritual cancer. It is idolatry.
The meat of the volume is a fairly slender cut – only 101 pages – but the fare is rich. The 10 chapters unfold in a logical sequence: chapters 1 to 8 are mainly diagnostic, while chapters 9 and 10 provide the remedy. The former seeks to expose the universality and subtlety of idolatry, and is something of a sustained meditation concerning where idols lurk in our lives. The latter (9 & 10) covers both defensive and offensive strategies in the battle against idolatry: negatively, how to flee idolatry; positively, how to treasure Christ.
While coming earlier in the book, in many ways chapter 4 (“the Cross of Christ – Safety in the Ashes) falls into the category of remedy also, since it takes us to the cross where Jesus died for our idols and made it so that “idolatry cannot condemn us eternally anymore.” (p 43)
There are also two lengthy appendixes at the end of the book – Idolatry Case Studies and A First Aid Kit for Idolators. Both of these add further practical value to the short volume. The only thing I couldn’t understand was why (apart from their length) they were not found in the main body of the book. Minus these appendixes, the criticism might have been leveled that there was ‘lots on the problem’ but relatively ‘little on the solution’. They are, then, a significant addition.
The brevity of the book’s chapters and its use of every-day life illustrations, make Dutcher’s diagnostic accessible to the average person in the pew, even to those who read relatively little. His style of writing is crisp, clear and keeps the attention. His definition of idolatry, for example, is typically succinct and memorable: “An idol is a lousy substitute for God.” (p31)
One could, however, also imagine this book in the hand of an unbeliever: especially one who struggles to understand what Christian’s mean by sin. Tim Keller has shown in recent years that speaking of sin in terms of idolatry is something that connects with many secular young people today, for example.
I, for one, will be recommending Dutcher’s book to Christians I know. This is not only a nicely written volume, it is a much needed one. Dutcher may be right when he says: “The idolatry syndrome has enjoyed almost invisible status in most Christian communities today.” (p80)
The subtlety and stealth of idolatry struck a chord with me even while reading “You are the treasure that I seek.” When I began reading, I confess to thinking: this may well be a profitable book for other people. I mean, surely pastors are beyond struggles with idolatry.
But then Dutcher relayed a conversation that sounded all too familiar :
“Laying his Bible on the dashboard, the pastor starts the ignition and pulls out of the church parking lot. ‘Your sermon was great today, honey. Did you get any feedback?’ asks his wife. The minister cocks his head slightly, as if retrieving the answer takes a good deal of effort. After a few moments of searching (after all, the people’s comments were the furtherest thing from his mind) he responds, ‘Yes, I think one or two people thought it was helpful. Praise the Lord.” (p12)
OK, idolatry is everyone’s problem.