Exodus 20:3 (NKJV)
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
We are all religious beings. As creatures made in the image of God, we cannot help but be religious. We all worship or obey someone or something. Some voice is ultimate – and it is this voice, this voice that governs and directs our life, that is our god. And the most popular deity today is the sovereign self. Eugene Peterson explains:
“Here’s how it works. It is important to observe that in the formulation of this new [religion] that defines the self as the sovereign text [or voice] for living, the Bible is neither ignored nor banned; it holds, in fact, an honored place. But the three-personal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is replaced by a very individualized personal Trinity of my Holy Wants, my Holy Needs, and my Holy Feelings….
The new Holy Trinity. The sovereign self expresses itself in Holy Needs, Holy Wants, and Holy Feelings. The time and intelligence that our ancestors spent on understanding the sovereignty revealed in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are directed by our contemporaries in affirming and validating the sovereignty of our needs, wants, and feelings.
My needs are non-negotiable… My need for fulfillment, for expression, for affirmation, for sexual satisfaction, for respect, my need to get my own way – all these provide a foundation to the centrality of me and fortify my self against [all threats].
My wants are evidence of my expanding sense of kingdom. I train myself to think big because I am big, important, significant. I am larger than life and so require more and more goods and services, more things and more power. Consumption and acquisition are the new fruits of the spirit.
My feelings are the truth of who I am. Any thing or person who can provide me with ecstasy, with excitement, with joy, with stimulus, with spiritual connection validates my sovereignty. This, of course, involves employing quite a large cast of therapists, travel agents, gadgets and machines, recreations and entertainments to cast out the devils of boredom or loss or discontent – all the feelings that undermine or challenge my self-sovereignty.
In the last two hundered years a huge literature…has developed around this new Holy Trinity of Needs, Wants, and Feelings that make up the sovereign self… The new spiritual masters assure us that all our spiritual needs are included in the new Trinity: our need for meaning and transcendence, our wanting a larger life, our feelings of spiritual significance – and, of course, there is plenty of room for God, as much or as little as you like. The new Trinity doesn’t get rid of God or the Bible, it merely puts them to the service of needs, wants, and feelings. Which is fine with us, for we’ve been trained all our lives to treat everyone and everything that way. It goes with the territory. It’s the prerogative of sovereignty, [the sovereignty of self].
What has become devastatingly clear in our day is that the core reality of the Christian [faith], the sovereignty of God revealing himself in [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit], is contested and undermined by virtually everything we learn in our schooling, everything presented to us in the media, every social, workplace, and political expectation directed our way as the experts assure us of the sovereignty of self. These voices seem so perfectly tuned to us, so authoritatively expressed and custom-designed to show us how to live out our sovereign selves, that we are hardly aware that we have traded in our Holy Bibles for this new text, the Holy Self.” [Eugene Peterson, Eat this Book, pp. 31-34]
So what of you? Are you here today to worship the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? To listen to His voice and be shaped by His Word? Or are you here to worship the unholy trinity of your needs, wants, and feelings? The first commandment strikes our ears, You shall have no other gods before me. Reminded that God is the center of all reality and that we often act as though we are the center instead, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.