Sometimes we exchange God for His gifts. We may have prayed for something and God answered. We then become overjoyed that the God of the universe heard our prayers, and answered it. We may thank Him for it, but suddenly we find our eyes now on the thing and not Him. Other times, God surprises us with blessings we did not ask for. Again, We get excited and thank Him. We may even tell others of God's grace, but slowly our eyes become fixed on the good thing, He has given, and not Himself. This could be anything, either material or spiritual blessings. It is oftentimes the spiritual ones that trip us up. Spiritual or not, there is no good idol.
Little children, keep yourself from idols. 1 John 5:21
Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal; I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:4
God tells us to keep ourselves from idols. Why? Because He is our God, and the only One worthy of our greatest love. When reading in the Old Testament, I find myself thinking about how foolish it was for the people of God to make idols from trees and gold. For example, when Moses was meeting with God, the people were impatient and decided they needed to make their own 'god,' a golden calf. Now, really think how crazy that sounds! They took things that were around them and worshiped them. If we think about the world today, we do the exact same thing, just with different materials. Our Idols have become businesses and papers that tell what kind of degree we graduated with. We worship sport teams, and our favorite music artists. We can even idolize theology. Take a look at your life, we all can make idols out of anything!
Even though we do not go to a physical alter and offer sacrifices, Oh we sacrifice! We sacrifice our family, the Body of Christ, our relationship with God, our health even...just to name a few. Hear me out! We can love good things. God is the giver of all that is good, and He delights in our delighting in them. We just cannot love those good things above God.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Now what exactly is an idol? To use the words of Timothy Keller, "An Idol is something we cannot live without...Anything can be an idol, and everything has been an idol." So, Idols are things we cherish as an alternative God. The story of the golden calf, I mentioned early, reveals a couple of things to us. For one, the gold was from God. He provided it for them through the Egyptians, during the exodus ( see Exodus 12:35-36 ). However, the gold was meant to be for His glory...not to make a golden calf! This tells us that every thing God provides for us should cause us to worship Him with it! Also, we see how our hearts must worship something. To say we do not worship anything is simply not true. We were made for worship; we cannot help but to worship. We see this with the Israelites. They thought Moses was gone for too long... and what were they going worship? God was not in their midst at that exact time, He was meeting with Moses. So, they created something.
Can I live without it?
All of us are worshipping something. We just have to determine what it is. One way to test ourselves is to ask, "What would happen if I were to lose this thing?" "What if I could not have it anymore?" Imagine it now for a moment! That thing is gone, never to have it again...do you think you can live without it? Or, do you think your whole world will be ruined or become worthless? Idols are things we cannot live without. So, if there is something in your life that you cannot live without, consider it something to sacrifice to the Lord. Speaking of sacrifice, giving things to God is a great way to dissolve the problem of idolized gifts.
He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." Genesis 22:2
Let us look at Abraham. Isaac, his only son, was given to him by God, as a blessing to him... and eventually the world. He waited years upon years. I mean, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were well off in years! They were too old to have kids! After years of waiting, Issac was born. Yes, FINALLY! But then, God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. We are talking about actually putting Issac on an alter and killing him like you would an animal. If you know the story, Abraham was willing, and he came very close to doing it, before God stopped him. This proved Abraham loved God more than his only son. Can you lay your most cherished thing or person on the alter?
..."As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the LORD and dwell there forever." 1 Samuel 1:22
Hannah is another example of someone sacrificing a gift to God. Hannah was a women in the Bible who was barren. She longed for a child, and literally cried out to the Lord for a baby. God granted her desires, and she promised to give this baby to God. She left her child with a priest named Eli, instead of keeping the boy in her home to enjoy. Talk about true sacrifice!! Can you totally give your most cherished to God?
All of Us Must Examine Our Heart
I would like to share a quick personal example of idolizing gifts. Okay, I am just gonna say it! I am naturally a people pleaser. Yes, it is my natural bent. Who does't want people to like them? But for me, it was sinful. I began to idolize friendships. Suddenly, my attention was more on what they liked and didn't, what songs they liked and didn't, the way they talked, what they liked to do for fun, etc. I lost myself in people. But, what happened when they were no longer there? I had an identity crises! What was I gonna worship then? Yes, these were Christian friends, and they were doing Christ honoring things...but they were my idols. God loves you and cares so much for His glory that He will take your idols, if you do not give them. What does that say about our idols anyway, if they can be taken? They are lousy gods to say the least. It was painful for them to be taken from me, but it was something that caused me to find a greater joy and satisfaction in Him. Also, those friends were taken for a season. I now have healthy friendships with them, and I have found my identity in Christ!
Turn to God. I know, you probably could have guessed that. But really, He should be your everything! One sentence that helps me, when I find my heart wanting to cling to gifts is "Hold all thing with an open hand." That means everything that you have should be available to God, willingly, as something He may leave with you or remove, as He pleases. I understand the fear of this. We think that if we give that loved thing, we will be missing out. This is not true, Instead, we gain greater intimacy with the One who created it. Is not the giver greater than the gift? Josephine just saying this will not convince you. No, you must go to Him for yourself and taste of His goodness. However, I am telling you from experience, you gain much more than what you lose when you sacrifice to God.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
God the Father, sacrificed His only begotten Son, to offer salvation for sinners like you and me. When we look at Christ's incarnation, and Him descending from glory to live in a sinful world, what a sacrifice! When we think about how He humbled Himself and reached for us, what a sacrifice! When we think about the blood shed and the humiliation He willingly endured, to have those who would believe in Him as His reward, what a sacrifice! When we think of the cost He paid, so that we can come by grace through faith to Him, what a sacrifice! This is the Creator and Ruler of the world we are talking about. His love for His bride is so great! Can we then say to our Savior and Bridegroom, 'No, I will not give this to have more of you?"
Let us say with hymn writer William Cowper,
The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that Idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.
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