“Son of man, these men have set up idols in their
hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them
inquire of me at all? (Ezekiel 14:3)
The dictionary defines cognitive dissonance as an anxiety
To relieve this anxiety the human mind will strive to diminish the
relative importance of one of those beliefs in favor of the other.
Jesus warned us that no man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24) and
James said when we pray we must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts
is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind and should not think
he will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-8).
God was rhetorically asking Ezekiel if He should let people with idols in
their hearts even pray to Him, Jesus was warning us about becoming
distracted by wealth and James was referring to wavering faith, but the
principle is the same in all three instances.
A close personal relationship with God requires wholehearted devotion
to Him. These are the prayers
God is sure to answer. There can
be no cognitive dissonance found in us.
We love the promise from Romans 8:28, “God is working everything
together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His
purpose.” But how many
of us know that the word translated “love” in that verse is agape?
It's the highest form of love in the Greek language and it means to
be totally given over to the object of one's love regardless of the outcome.
Jesus loved us that way. He gave up His life for us,
12:1 says we should be willing to do the same for Him.
Of course, I'm not talking about our physical life. I'm talking about giving
up our version of our future in favor of His. As long as we retain any
willfulness or self-determination we're not offering our whole beings as
living sacrifices. That's why Paul told us not to conform any longer
to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our
minds (Romans 12:2).
We're not to pattern our lives according to the things of this world, but
according to His will for us.
Well There's Your Problem
Let others lament over our deplorable behavior and our weak faith.
I'm going to suggest that the area where Christians in the US today
are the most vulnerable has to do with the cognitive dissonance
we've developed between our desire for the Lord's return for us and
our love of the life we enjoy here.
The anxiety this creates in our sub-conscious has caused our longing
for the next life to be diminished relative to our
desire for the Lord to restore this life to its former levels of
To a degree, this is understandable.
For the past 65 years or so the US has been the most preferred place
to live anywhere on Earth. Even
people who hate America have dreamed of living here. The benefits of
American life have been as generous as they have been numerous.
Average Americans have typically enjoyed a standard of living that's
beyond the reach of even the privileged few in many countries.
By contrast, the benefits of eternal life with the Lord are undefined and
don't seem real to many. For
them, the phrase “pie in the sky by and by” defines the extent of their
understanding. I see evidence of
this in the letters I get from well meaning people who are afraid we'll be
“confined” to the New Jerusalem, as some have put it, and won't be able to
visit the Earth we've grown to love.
Others are concerned there won't be enough room for all of us there,
and still others can't imagine how their new life could be as nice as their
current one. If they knew what the Bible says they would have
no such concerns.
Whose Fault Is That?
This lack of knowledge is due primarily to the Church's terrible failure to
teach believers about the blessings of the life to come.
After all, it is the fulfillment of our life's purpose.
Therefore I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that asking God to
save our country is a more popular thing to do than preparing
to be taken away to begin our eternal adventure with Him.
For many of us, returning to the good old days here seems like a
better deal than longing for the bliss that lies ahead.
But while the Lord never promised to save the USA, He did promise a
reward to all who long for His appearing.
Now there is in store for me the
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to
me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his
(2 Tim. 4:8)
I often wonder how bad things will have to get before people stop dreaming
about the past here and start
yearning for our future there. I
guess time will tell.
To use Ezekiel's words, The “American way of life” has become an idol we've
set up in our hearts.
We've become double minded because of it and if the Lord isn't already doing
so, He'll soon be wondering if He should even let us pray to Him about it.
And remember, no matter how beautiful and desirable something appears to us,
if it interferes with our whole
hearted desire to follow His will it's an idol and a wicked stumbling block
from His perspective.
Asking Him to extend our time here rather than hasten the day of our
departure is a clear sign that we're not loving Him as He has loved us.
It means we haven't given ourselves completely to Him.
When push comes to shove we don't really want to put aside our plans
for the future in favor of His.
We've enjoyed our time here too much and don't want to leave just yet.
When Are We Going To Learn?
Paul said everything that was written in the past was written to teach us (Romans
15:4). One lesson we
should learn from our study of the Old Testament is that when Israel lined
up behind God's will He blessed them beyond all measure.
But when they positioned themselves in opposition, His response was
to take away everything they desired more than Him until He was all they had
left. It doesn't take a whole
lot of imagination to see that happening in the US today.
(Maybe the best way to make life easier for ourselves now is to
abandon our version of the future and get behind His.)
According to Bible Prophecy God's plan for our times is to completely
destroy all the nations to which His people have been scattered (Jeremiah
30:11) and give Israel the Kingdom He promised them.
In the process He'll
restore Heaven and Earth to provide them with a life that's vastly superior
to anything they've ever experienced.
But before He can begin these things, He has promised to take the
Church to a place filled with wealth and happiness beyond measure where we
can be protected from the wrath that's coming against the unbelieving world
(Isaiah 26:20-21, John 14:2-3).
Saying that we want to be raptured before things get bad on one hand,
but praying that He will heal our land so we can enjoy a few more
years of the “good life” on the other is as clear a case of cognitive
dissonance as I've ever seen. It's a wonder He doesn't just shake His head
in utter amazement and walk away forever.
But He won't. Ready or not He'll
come one day soon and whisk us all away to our mansions in the sky.
He'll do that, not because we've longed for it to happen, but because
He promised He would. He is God
after all. He can't do anything
else. You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah.