Summary: God alone deserves the place of priority in our lives. And that means we can’t even put ourselves before Him. He has the place of priority. He comes first. This message talks about what it means to put God before ourselves.
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been going through our Canadian Idols series of messages. The first week we talked about what an idol is: it’s anything or anyone that takes the place of God in our lives. It’s whatever we place in that place of priority in our lives which pushes God aside. We also talked about how whatever we choose to worship as an idol will eventually let us down. Only God will never fail us, and only He is worthy of our worship.
Last week, we looked at two things which aren’t necessarily evil, but which can become an idol for us. And when they take the place of God, that’s when they become evil. Specifically, we explored how our career and how our family can become the be all and end all of our existence. But while these things are important – even very important – they should not define who we are, they should not be what gives purpose to our lives, and they should not become an idol for us.
Today we’re going to continue our series and discuss another idol which a lot of people struggle with… the idol of self.
Sometimes it’s not the external things which we struggle with. Sometimes it’s ourselves. Our happiness, our comfort, our popularity become all that’s important. And while it’s not bad to be happy, it’s not wrong to be comfortable, it’s not evil to be popular, when all we seek are those things and they become more important than God, they become a problem. And they can greatly interfere or even destroy our relationship with Him.
God alone deserves the place of priority in our lives. And that means we can’t even put ourselves before Him. He has the place of priority. He comes first. So this morning we’re going to talk about what it means to put God first as it relates to the Idol of Self. Let’s go.
Putting God First Means…
1. You seek God’s approval, not man’s applause.
We normally think of this as a teenage problem. Teens want to be liked. Teens do things because everyone else is doing them. Teens give in to peer pressure. But it’s not just a teenage problem. Of course, we adults don’t call it peer pressure. We call it going with the flow, compromising, finding the middle ground, not causing waves… we don’t want to do anything and we don’t want to say anything that’s going to upset anyone or make them distance themselves from us, because we want their approval.
Shortly after Jesus was arrested, the religious leaders who were also influential politically presented their case before Pontius Pilate. Pilate was a Roman official who had the authority to either release Jesus or have Him executed. And all kinds of accusations were being made against Him. The religious leaders arranged for people to tell lies and make false accusations, and they really incited a mob mentality. And Pilate felt the pressure.
We’re told in the Bible that Pilate found Jesus innocent and he wanted to release Him. He even offered to have Jesus flogged (or whipped) before he released Him, but the crowd rose up with a mighty roar demanding that Jesus be given the death penalty. Again Pilate declared that Jesus was innocent, but the people continued to shout for His death. So finally Pilate gave in and handed Jesus over to be crucified. That was the first case of “Pilate Error.”
Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. He knew Jesus didn’t deserve to die. He knew that he should release Jesus. But he didn’t. Why? Because of the pressure that was placed on him to do what everyone else wanted him to do and gain the approval of the crowd.
Pop Quiz: Who’s the richest man in the world?
1. Gates, William H III = 40.7 billion
2. Buffett, Warren Edward = 30.5 billion
3. Albrecht, Karl & Theo = 25.6 billion
4. Allen, Paul Gardner = 20.1 billion
5. Alsaud, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal = 17.7 billion
6. Ellison, Lawrence Joseph = 16.6 billion
7. Walton, Alice L = 16.5 billion
7. Walton, Helen R = 16.5 billion
7. Walton, Jim C = 16.5 billion
7. Walton, John T = 16.5 billion
~ From Forbes.com for 2003
King Solomon in the Old Testament was the third king of Israel. And at that point of history, Solomon was the richest king in the world. Comparatively, he could have put Bill Gates to shame. He was also the wisest man in the world. But catch this… the guy had 700 wives! Now, I love my wife. I enjoy being married. But 700?!? I’ve heard of the 700 Club, but I had no idea. Maybe Solomon wasn’t so wise, after all.
Actually, it was common in the world at the time for people in general and royalty in particular to have several wives. It was often more of a political union than one of the heart. Treaties could be sealed with a wedding. But God has warned Solomon not to intermarry with several of the surrounding nations because those wives would lead him to worship false gods. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.