June 29, 2014
As I was doing my Bible reading this week, I read Psalm 115 and I immediately thought of Isaiah 44. We’ll read these passage in a bit. I had a different topic and scripture planned for today, but I felt the Lord leading me to talk about this passage. Honestly, I tried to go back to what I already had mostly written, but I kept hearing God say “No!” So, I changed my thought process and wrestled with this passage for the past days.
Now Psalm 115:4-9 tells us ~
4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
9 O Israel, trust in the Lord!
Guess what we’re talking about? Idols. We’re going to look at the different things we worship, adore, are devoted to — — those things and people which come before our relationship with God. There’s so much potential to put other things ahead of God, yet, at the same time, we have to find that balance so that we don’t end up making God and our worship of God into an idol. We’ll talk about that in 2 weeks.
When we think about all that we can worship, all the things which move us away from God, we have to start with the major culprit in all of this . . .
Of all the many ways we partake in idolatry, one thing is front and center . . . and the culprit is OURSELVES. Yup, we can’t move away from the fact that we’re the ones who are making the decisions about our lives and our families. Obviously, we don’t bow down to idols and images as they did centuries ago. Our worship consists more at the altar of the god of self. And this type of idolatry takes so many different forms. It’s what God said through Isaiah in Isaiah 44 ~
9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.
10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?
11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.
12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint.
13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house.
14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.
15Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.
16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!”
17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” – Isaiah 44
So, what are some of the altars and forms of idolatry we practice?
Well, we worship at the altar of materialism. We often put our desire to accumulate stuff as our motivation for what we do. Why? It feeds our ego. The more stuff we have, the better we feel about ourselves. But, it’s a false sense of security.
We build bigger and bigger houses with more closets and storage space in order to house all the things we buy . . . and consider the fact that much of it hasn’t been paid for. As we pay it off, our new treasures become more and more obsolete. And at the same time so much of our stuff has a “planned obsolescence” built into it. We’re happy when it lasts longer than we thought. Yet so much of our stuff is out-dated within no time, so we have to put it in our garage sales and get pennies on the dollar.
In it’s place we then go out and buy the newest item, gadget, tool, clothes, or whatever we think will help us believe we are good!
We have this unquenchable desire for more, for better, for newer. We end up coveting what others have — which is the 10th commandment. We’re told – You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20:17).
It’s not that we can’t go out and buy something that’s nice or a quality item. It’s a question of the motivation behind it? The question to always ask is what’s my motivation. It’s getting below the surface when we ask ourselves.
God knows we will never be happy indulging our materialistic desires because it’s satan’s trap to keep our focus on ourselves and not on Him. God understands there’s a deeper issue at work within us which leads us to satisfy ourselves — thinking all’s good, when it isn’t.
Another idol we worship is when we approach the altar of our pride and ego. This takes form in obsessions with careers, jobs and our bodies. Millions of people spend 60-80 hours per week working. On weekends, they’re on their laptops, on their phones, conducting more and more business. We marvel at the pace they keep, at their success on the job. And that feeds their already fragile ego to do more.
In the meantime, our children are starving for attention and love. We fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing all this for their future. This will give them a better life. But really, it’s giving them a wrong example of what it means to be a parent. Yes, provide for your family. Absolutely, but at the expense of your kids. One of the reasons I coach is to hopefully give kids a male role model. Yes, I love sports, but to be able to help a kid who’s parents are absent is so important. And you see the kids play out their feelings when they have an absentee parent or parents.
On top of this we have all the things we can do for ourselves to make us look better. It’s not just about being healthy. It’s about having others remark how good we look. So, we literally buy into all those infomercials which tell us what we need to do to have a better looking body, to get rid of the aging spots, the baldness, the gray, the flab, the wrinkles and I could go on. And that’s just for me. Yes, be healthy, but how often do you need to look in the mirror? How often do you really need to get the designer clothes, just to show them off? How often do we look at who’s commented or liked our selfie’s on instagram? Oftentimes, it about feeding our ego.
Of course, be healthy, I’ll say it again. If you’re dieting . . . good for you. But that’s so you can be healthy, and not necessarily craving the comments of the world, so we do more and more to feed an addiction which is unhealthy.
We say we just want to look good. That’s the surface issue. Because the truth is we want to increase our self-esteem by appearing more successful in the eyes of the world. All our labors and accomplishments will be of no use to us after we die, nor will the admiration of the world, because these things have no eternal value. As King Solomon put it, 20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun,
21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?
23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 2:21-23).
It’s the old saying, ‘we can’t take it with us.’ So, don’t work for yourself. As Paul said, in Colossians 3:23 ~ 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
That’s a great reminder from Paul — all the work we do, is for the Lord and not for man, which includes yourself.
Then we have the idol of Entertainment. Again, there’s nothing wrong with going out to eat, to an amusement park, to a movie, playing games, and much more.
BUT, is your entertainment God-honoring? If not, then that’s reason enough to step away from it according to this verse in Colossians 3:17 – 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Beyond that, there is the time and financial commitment that should be considered. There’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with entertainment. Where the problem comes is when you place those things ahead of serving and obeying God. Did you spend $50 on a dinner, but you can’t find money for the offering?
Are you hooked on something, you’ve got to watch, or play that game. It’s not a want to, but it becomes a need. Even if it means you don’t read the Bible, pray, attend worship. Those are the sacrifices you make to feed your idol.
I would say it even comes to taking weekends away from worship. And those are sometimes difficult decisions. When we lived in Michigan, Joshua played soccer, and his schedule showed he had soccer games every Sunday at 12:30. It wasn’t going to happen. So, he retired from soccer.
What about weekends away where our last thought is about worship? Do our weekends away become our new gods. We can’t wait for Friday afternoons so we can hit the road and take off. One of the things I admire about some of our folks who go south for the winter is that they have 2 church families. Their home church here — — and their winter church. That’s great. That shows the priority you’ve placed on your faith in Christ. Good for you!
What about the worship we have of celebrities and other individuals who we want to be more like. Our kids put their posters on their walls, buy their products and hope to be more like them. In the end, are those the people we want our kids to become?
You see, the bottom line in idolatry is that fact that we ultimately give our attention and affections to other things and people instead of God because at some level, a level which is way below the surface issues, we believe they give us the deeper idols of power, approval, comfort or security we think we need . Somehow we don’t trust that God can meet all of our needs. So we take care of meeting our needs. I’m not just talking about basic needs. Those are surface issues. I’m talking about the deep needs we have in our lives which lead us to worship things and people other than God.
We will talk more about this in 2 weeks when I return from vacation. But know this . . . and I really want you to believe this, because this is the root of breaking the bondage we fall into from the idols we worship . . .
Paul tells us we are 12 God's chosen ones, holy and dearly loved
In Ephesians 4:24, Paul tells us to put off our old self — 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
And in 2 Corinthians 5:17 - He added 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.