As last week came to an end, this wasn’t exactly the post I was planning to share right off the bat, but on Saturday God overwhelmed my heart with a topic that has been unfolding in my life heavily for the past year. It’s one that has changed my understanding and perspectives on following Jesus; One that I think is of utmost importance in the church today; One that I think is going to be a significant part of the heartbeat of this blog because so much of my life has been impacted through this. And it all started last September as we joined our church in Southern Illinois for a fall retreat to explore the topic of tearing down idols. The teachings were challenging, convicting, and motivating, & they left a large impression on my heart and life. One so big that I cannot contain it for myself.
I’ll start with this: Back in the time of the Old Testament, God revealed to Moses the ten commandments. At the time this was a preamble of sorts to the law that God established for the people of Israel to follow him and the life that he desired for them. Now mind you, through Jesus’s death & resurrection the law was fulfilled, and therefore it is not binding in the same way for us New Testament folks as it was in those times, but God’s heart is still plastered all over these words that serve as a guide for believers to live more like Jesus & to live a holy & satisfying life. This can be made sure through Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament that not only bring up the ten commandments, but also expand and explore their meaning and application.
God stated in the first of these commandments, “you shall have no other gods before me.” This was then followed up by the second: “you shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”
When I first became a Christian, these were the commandments that I felt like I never needed to worry about. At face value I thought I had them covered. I didn’t have statues or images of things that I bowed downed to or worshiped. I didn’t believe any other religions, nor did I believe in any of their gods, so I thought I was good. As I’ve gotten to know Jesus more and have gained more knowledge of the Bible though, I’ve realized that these commandments are the ones that I defy probably more often than most.
You see, at their core, these commandments are not simply just speaking about the golden calves or Baal worship of the Old Testament, or the obvious application of false religions. They’re also referring to the things in our lives that steal our attention & hearts away from God. They’re talking about the things that we put in God’s place in our hearts and lives; the things that we put before God and devote ourselves to even though when they stand alone they will only leave us empty; the things that we are unwilling at times to sacrifice & give up for the sake of following Jesus.
Ever since our fall retreat I have had this eye opening sense of idols in my life & in the world. & it’s alarming. We don’t realize that we are idol worshipers in our daily lives. We put things in the place of God all the time. These hidden idols are all right in front of our faces. When we seek prosperity and money more than we seek Jesus, we are making an idol of it. When we spend our time devoted to seeking entertainment or status in order to fulfill our lives, or sex or romance or alcohol or the way all of those things make us feel as a way to make us feel whole, we are making idols of those things. When we put something in God’s place in our hearts, we are in severe danger of making that an idol in our lives. Many of our idols are not necessarily bad things on their own. Mark Driscoll once said, “Idolatry is taking a good thing, making it a god thing and that’s a bad thing.” Things like relationships, family, food, work, or money are not bad things in themselves. But if we make these things more important to us than God, we have a problem. When we are consumed by something more than we are consumed with Jesus, we have a problem.
For probably a year now I’ve been fighting a battle with materialism and vanity in different ways. I’ve fallen into the comparison game more times than I can count. I’ve sought to have the style or wardrobe that other admirable women have. I’ve sought to have life experiences that live up to, or out do, others. I’ve made efforts to have that well put together life that others admire. & every single one of those paths has led me to emptiness, brokenheartedness (I think I just made that word up), & self esteem issues that God’s been helping me work through since I finally turned to Him. I’ve sought these things more than I’ve sought satisfaction & contentment in the love of my Savior. I’ve spent time thinking of, and acting on, these things more than I’ve devoted my time to serving and seeking Jesus. & the real messed up part is, I’ve tasted & seen so much of God. I’ve experienced His goodness & faithfulness & sovereignty & love & healing & so much more of his character, and I still find myself choosing otherwise, & chasing quick fix idols. I’m constantly playing the role of the prostitute Gomer in the book of Hosea (which is one of my favorites in the Bible because of the humbling portrayal of our unfaithfulness to God & His faithfulness to us) where regardless of how much my God pours out his love on me, I still seek satisfaction and fulfillment in worldly things that leave me feeling empty & craving more. That’s what we do when we worship something other than God: we prostitute our souls to it. Praise the Lord for grace and mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ!
I believe that we all have idol issues in our lives. & if you are having a hard time recognizing one for yourself, I challenge you to examine the way you spend your time, your money, and your thoughts. Just like our pastor posed the question to us, I ask you: if you feel like you couldn’t give up that one (or many) things(s) for a year, you very well have a heart issue that needs to change. We are to hold everything in this life with an open hand. If you are a Christ follower you are meant to give your life, ALL of it, to Jesus. Although it is terribly difficult for us to loosen our grip & hand it all over at once, there is beauty & grace in the process. Another note I have from the group of messages spoken at fall retreat is that “this life alone is not fulfilling enough because we were made for something more. We were made for eternity” and “we were made to be fully satisfied in nothing other than Jesus Christ.” If you’re seeking for satisfaction & fulfillment elsewhere, it may sustain you for a little while, but it will all leave you empty handed at best in the end.
My heart has been breaking so much lately as I see just how prevalent idols are in our world & lives. That there are things deemed acceptable that are being increased to a status that they do not deserve. That something that can be good in our lives could put us so out of whack if we treat it with the wrong heart and intentions. This is serious stuff. So serious that the very first two commandments of the original Old Testament law concerned these issues.
God wants our hearts. He wants our lives. He asks things of us that are going to cost us. But we can look beyond the pain of tearing down our idols, cutting our heartstrings, & loosening our grip, to see and experience the freedom of redemption in Jesus & an eternity spent with Him. I think that is something that is SO worth it.