"Today’s idols are more in the self than on the shelf."
- Source unknown
The Apostle Paul faced many false gods and idols, everywhere that he traveled in the early days of the church: Acts 19:23-26. When we think of what life must have been like, worshiping all these false idols and gods, it seems somewhat foreign and difficult to imagine in our educated, evolutionary thinking of today's society. But, let's stop and take a very practical look at these first century worshipers, and see if they are really as different as we may assume. Just a casual look at the Greek and Roman mythology of Paul's day, and you can find gods of Sex, Health, Wisdom, Fertility, Strength, Music, Art, Fame, Wealth, Success, Beauty, and Pleasure. These gods were chosen and worshiped, by those who found significance in what they represented. It may be that the only real difference between them and many of us today, is that they had the wisdom and honesty to call their affections worship, whereas those today do not recognize their devotions to many of the same things as such.
One of the biggest, and funniest lies ever spoken by those who reject God is the claim that they don't need a crutch, they can control their own lives; that they are free from religious restrictions that stifle others, and don't have to serve anyone. But that statement and thought process is so completely false, that it warrants consideration as one of Satan's all-time best lies. A recent American writer, and university instructor in English and creative writing, by the name of David Foster Wallace, recognized in Time magazine, and called, "one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last twenty years" by the Los Angeles Times, an atheist, or agnostic at best said this in 2005, during a Commencement Address to Kenyon College, just a few years before taking his own life. The speech went on to describe the many things this culture has given ourselves over to in worship. What Mr. Foster was revealing is a truth that atheists, and some thought-to-be-Christians, don't like to admit: there is no question that everyone has something they have religiously, sacrificially given themselves to in this life. And the many things chosen over God Himself, are so much more constricting, painful, freedom-robbing, and destructive, than the victim ever realizes—until it's too late.
Idol and worship: What do we respect, admire, and have extreme devotion to today? What do we live in daily, conscious slavery and servitude to keep in our lives? It does not necessarily have to be bad or sinful things, hey often are not. But they are things that have become your primary reason for purpose or enjoyment in life, whether you recognize it consciously or not. Your every thought is occupied by it. It interrupts your plans, and dictates your schedule, controls your day, mood, your life, thereby becoming your god, your passion, your reason for life. Do you have an idol? Spouse, or desire to be loved by someone—willing to do anything to keep them or please them? Who you are is wrapped up in what they think of you only. Career or position of importance—your identity and worth are wrapped completely in your title or success? Intelligence or education—constantly striving to be held in esteem for your intellect? Alcohol/Drugs—everything else is secondary & expendable to get what you want? Looks, physique, beauty—extreme time given to looks, and constant awareness self? Image/Praise from others—need to be the focus of attention, need to be constantly affirmed? Children—is every decision in life based around their benefit? Ministry—self-worth & relationship to God based on success? Legalism (Righteousness, purity)—every thought on what others think of your behavior? Constant comparison to others’ actions and sins? Sexual pleasure or affection—every thought, every look with lust? Is your life built around any of these things? Do you live with the majority of your thought focused on one of these things almost constantly? Would you lose all direction or purpose without it? Would it be enough to make you bitter with God? There is your idol.
Not all of these things are bad in and of themselves—the sin of idolatry is usually not the actions, but the disorder of love. Compare to a couple—if the husband loved friends more, loved work more, loved other women more—how would the wife feel? This is the heart of the issue of idolatry with God. We so often feel that God is happy with us simply because we believe He exists, and we try to follow His commands—nothing could be farther from the truth. He desires us, our affection, our passion. He wants us to be completely infatuated with Him as He is with us: John 15:9: He wants to be everything to us. Matthew 22:37-38: He wants this because He first loved us that way. He wants this because He deserves it. He wants this because to give any less would not be real, perfect love. But He wants our ultimate, complete love above all others for this reason as well.
David Foster Wallace may not have understood the beautiful Truth that Jesus Christ is real, but he did see the futility in placing your total devotion in anything else in this life.
There is a safety video out called, "Remember Charlie", that tells of one man's attempt to save 10 minutes with a shortcut at work, which cost him severe burns and a lifetime of loss for him, and his family. He repeatedly asks the crowd a redundant question about his actions, I made these dumb decisions, and "For what?" He expresses repeatedly, what he wouldn't give to live those few short moments over again.
Just look honestly at the true results of placing your strength, trust and meaning into something other than Jesus Christ for this short time on earth. Spouse, or desire to be loved by someone—will live in constant fear, and jealousy of losing them, and your world will crumble when rejected or hurt by them. You’ll never love them in a helpful, happy way because of fear of losing them, and you will realize how misplaced your affections were when you see the true love of Christ, that you lost forever, when you stand before God—For what? Career or position of importance—you will live in constant anxiety over not being good enough to keep the position; you will grow hard and lonely as you compete with, instead of loving, others; you will lose all meaning and worth when that position is gone. That position will be a complete joke when remembered throughout eternity as the all-important focus of your life—For what? Intelligence or education—you will live in fear of looking dumb, of always being found out as less than you are, every day of your life; you will hurt many people by exalting self over them, and by criticizing them; you will find that you gave up an eternity of true love to have lived an agonizing life—For what? Addictions—obviously, you will miss out on every other wonderful blessing of living, in pursuit of one all-consuming pleasure, even then, you will never have a moment of rest, because you'll always be fixated on the next time. You will hurt and destroy many people and opportunities; you will destroy your own health, and thought process; you will lose sight of what life is about, how to really love, and be thrown away and forsaken in the end (because you want or love no one)—For what? Looks, physique, beauty—you will always feel ugly and unworthy; will live in the anxiety of constant comparison to others; will spend many desperate years in horror and fear as you fight the inevitable effects of losing what you idolize—all to protect what you discover was completely useless when you stand before God, realizing you have no real beauty—never have—For what? Image/Praise from others—you miss every wonderful moment of life, because you are too worried about how you look in the moment. You spend all your energy trying to impress people that really don't care that much about you, while ignoring the precious gifts and people that matter; you train yourself to think more of you, your looks, your experiences, your feelings, your opinions, than anyone else around you, only to leave this world and be told you never truly cared for anyone else, because you were always focused on self—For what? Sexual pleasure—you lose the ability to see anyone of the opposite sex as a person. You are a prisoner to lust every moment; you ruin your own sexual health with your spouse; you want what you can't have, and have what you don't want; your appetite gets increasingly more perverted; you lose desire for anything else in life; you miss out on all other ways of showing and receiving value and love. You face God realizing you've thrown away eternity for something that has only consumed and hurt you—For what? When these things are your idol—your focus of worship—you've either never had a desire for the true God, or, you have lived a life of self-delusion, thinking you know Him when you don't, because you can never learn to hear God talk to you when you are completely infatuated with another idol; you can never think like Him or see others as He does, when you are tainted by your idol; you can never feel His presence or love when you are absorbed by your idol; you can never be intimate and satisfied with Him, when all you want is your idol: Jonah 2:8. When you know God is real, and yet purposefully chase after something else you've made into an idol in life, God will reach a point that He lets you have what you want—He lets you become as enveloped as you crave, knowing you have turned your back on His love and mercies, And then, as the writer David Foster Wallace said, "Your desires will eat you alive" here on earth, only to leave you forsaken and ashamed after death—and, "For What?” Satan has us believing the exact opposite of Truth. He has us believing that to follow Christ makes you a slave in prison, but the reality is that we trade peace, purpose, freedom, and the drinking of life to its fullest (as He planned); we trade real love from the God who would die for you, for a life of real slavery, that ends in despair and self-destruction: John 10:10. How does anything you are currently living for, even remotely compare to having real life now, and the eternal life later, that Jesus Christ has waiting for you.
"Grace will save a man... but it will not save him and his idol." (A.W. Tozer) Don't buy Satan's lie one more day. Don't let your thoughts, actions, moods, relationships, or life be controlled one more day by an idol. Yes, its true: we all worship something—but anything else you worship will take from you as you give to it. Worship Jesus, and He’ll give to you in return His very Life, love and glory, and treasures beyond comprehension. Why is there even a conflict on what to worship, when you see through Satan’s lie? So, worship the very One who placed that desire into your heart: 1 John 5:21.
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