Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Idols Around Us - a review of EMPTY PROMISES by Pete Wilson

Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re believing,(THOMAS NELSON, 2012) by Pete Wilson, Pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, is a book which should strike fear into the heart of everyone who claims to be a Christian. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I serve as pastor at a church affiliated with a mainline protestant denomination, and I have preached about several of the same things Pete writes about. (Maybe that’s why I liked the book so much – he agrees with what I’m already saying). Many times a pastor doesn’t think that his current sermon is one he needs to hear when he starts writing it, but by the time Sunday evening rolls around, he has often changed his mind. I prepare sermons for the congregation and preach them to myself! This book is so scary to me, because it hits so close to home. I don’t know who Pete was writing too, but it was a sermon that I needed to hear again.

This book should cause us to tremble, not because it’s hellfire and brimstone, but because as we read we are invited, encouraged, nudged, prodded (and given an occasional headlong shove) to look at how, instead of following God, we are lusting after idols. Obviously they’re not figurines fashioned of metal or clay - we’re much too sophisticated for that, but somehow, as we head out on this thing we call our Christian walk, most of us seem to get sidetracked by those things that Pete calls ‘empty promises’ those things that would make our lives so much better if only we could obtain them. The problem is, as Pete so skillfully points out it that frequently we do manage to get them in our hot little hands, only to find that they don’t offer as much satisfaction as we were expecting.

Early on in the history of God's Chosen People, the rule is no idols and worship only God. Jesus appears on the scene, and is whisked into the desert to be tempted. Satan says “Worship me, and it will all be yours,” and Jesus wisely replies “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only”. (Luke 4:7,8, NIV) We think we’re doing just that, we say we’re doing that, but as Pete points out we really worship a whole lot of other stuff: money, possessions, power, beauty, relationships and more. The idols are out there waiting for us to find them! We find them , take them home and let them get between us and God.

One of the highlights of this book for me was chapter 10 (You are what you worship). In the name of God, in the name of Jesus, Christians across the centuries have done some pretty bizarre things: (think crusades). Today, in the name of worship, we continue to meet in outdated buildings, we sing unmusical songs with theologically incorrect lyrics - because they’re found in the preferred hymnal, and we lavish reverential awe on the Bible that has never been opened, much less read or applied to our lives. (We worship the physical book, rather than the Living Word of God) This is a wonderful reminder that we are to worship God continually, not just for an hour on Sunday morning.

Again I really liked this book. If you’re looking for systematic theology, go to the reference section of your library. This book probably wasn’t written for scholars, it was written for the people who go to church on Sunday morning and might have questions during the week. It was written for the people who want to get closer to God, not just learn to follow a set of rules dictated by a denomination or a local church.

Wilson quotes a number of the important ‘voices’ on the topics, and the variety of theological backgrounds included helped me see (again) that when it comes to worshiping idols as opposed to worshiping God, that people of every ideology have the right idea about what we’re supposed to do, and also that there is no monopoly on the lack of an exact system for putting what we know into practice.

This is a very readable book, (5 stars) and you can probably read it in just a couple of hours, however if you read it that quickly, you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice: take time to read and reflect, to savor the nuggets that are found throughout the book.

Check out the author’s web site, and the links to some video clips about the book.

Author Website:

Video Book Trailer- Full:

Video Book Trailer- 60 sec:

I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of the booksneeze review program in exchange for posting this review. I was not required to give it a favorable review.

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