Christian Idolatry
The other day I received a forwarded chain email that I found very disturbing, but not for the reason the original sender intended. Even more disturbing was the fact that it came from a Son of God who should know better. Let me describe it as best I can recall and see if you can understand what I found offensive.
The email was basically a series of photographs of US soldiers either in action, at rest or wounded. It ended with these words: 
There are only 2 people who have died for you:
1. Jesus Christ
2. The US soldier. 
This was followed by an encouragement to support the troops. That was it.
From the title of this article and for those who are familiar with my writings, by now you may have guessed where I am going with this. Let me first make it very clear that my heart really goes out to those brave men and women who serve in the US military. I have often been moved to tears at the sight of one of their coffins and at the thought of their young lives being cut short. I truly love this country and the principles for which it stands. But I see this email as a symptom of a deep malaise in the body of Christ in this country which I want to briefly address.
Partly because we live in a so-called Christian society, many of God’s people have been seduced by a watered down christianity that is more cultural and political than spiritual. We have used Jesus and Christianity to serve a “larger” purpose: the pursuit of political power and cultural influence. We have replaced God’s purposes with our own agenda. We have not understood that there is no purpose greater than the purpose of God: to raise up a perfected Church that knows no geographical boundaries and flies under no national banner. Viewed in this light, we can see that patriotism has become an idol lodged in the hearts of many of God’s people in this country.
It is this idolatry that makes it perfectly reasonable to refer to the sacrificial work of Jesus in the same breathe that we talk about the US soldier. There wasn’t even a double-space between the lines!
The account of the passage of the children of Israel into the Promised Land provides a dramatic illustration of what I am trying to say here:
3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.  4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore. Joshua 3:3-4

This long distance between the ark (a type of Jesus) and the rest of the children of Israel as the ark was carried by the priests into the river Jordan symbolizes something profound about the atoning work of Jesus and what He accomplished for us in conquering hell, death and the grave. Nothing can touch it. Nothing comes near it.  Anything that diminishes that atoning work is an idol.
As Christians we need to jealously guard those two thousand cubits.  
My eternal thanks for the life and writings of T Austin-Sparks.