We all chase after temporary things to find our identity, even those of us who know we shouldn’t. We are allured and seduced by success, approval, relationships, money, and even legalistic religion. In Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, Pete Wilson addresses these issues of idolatry and identity head on.
The reality in which we live is that of a broken, fallen world; and we live in this world as broken, fallen people. As such, we intrinsically know that something is wrong with the world, that something is wrong with us, and we know that we need to be fixed. We all know this, even if some would deny it with their lips, their lives show the desire for more. The desire for completeness. As Christians, we see in Scripture that we can only be fixed by the saving grace of God through the gospel of Christ, and that we can only become complete inside of a relationship with Christ and finding and embracing our identity in who we are in Christ.
Yet, even those who teach this are prone to pursue temporary things in some areas other than seeking fulfillment in Jesus. Wilson tells us “I’ve made delivering a strong message more important than submitting to the Lord and letting Him actually change me (p. 29).” He was so focused on preparing a message from God to deliver to the church he shepherds that he didn’t slow down and listen to the message that God had for him during that time of preparation. Now, it’s easy for us to see that is self-defeating, but if I’m honest, I have to ask myself how many blogs I’ve written when I was more concerned about having something to write than I was about the content changing my own heart? And how many times have I given Biblical counsel to a friend without slowing down to see if I’m applying that to my own life?
As Wilson says, “We were never created to find our worth simply in what we do (p. 30).” How true this is! The creation narrative in Genesis 1-2 shows us that we were primarily created to walk in daily relationship with God, and to work and cultivate the Earth as His stewards as an extension and overflow of that relationship. Adam was given a wife, Eve, so that man could better reflect God’s Trinitarian nature (being separate Persons, but with one essence), and to be an image of Christ and the Church. Even the most intimate of our relationships exists as an extension and overflow of our relationship with God. When we put any of those good gifts outside of this context, and seek our fulfillment, identity, and acceptance in those things instead of Christ, it’s idolatry, and we are commanded to repent and turn to Jesus.
Wilson communicates his points clearly and lovingly. The tone I felt was one of genuine care for both the reader and for Biblical truth. The writing style is easy enough for a high school student to read, but the truths so compelling that it will cause those in college, seminary, and in ministry to pause and reflect on their own life. Life indeed offers us many distractions from our relationship and identity in Christ, and this book serves us well in helping us to identify and stop chasing Empty Promises.
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