Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not life up his soul to an idol..." Psalm 24:3-4
I would be the first to volunteer that God is the first in my life, my everything, but if I search deeper and reflect longer I find a whole lot of undealt with idols. Things that define me, comfort me, and control me other than Christ.
This is the prayer of my heart lately.
Search me and know my heart O God. Make me smaller and you bigger. Overwhelm me until I am consumed completely.
"A careful reading of the old and New Testament shows that idolatry is nothing like the crude, simplistic picture that springs to mind of an idol sculpture in some distant country. As the main category to describe unbelief, the idea is highly sophisticated, drawing together the complexities of motivation in individual psychology, the social environment, and also the unseen world. Idols are not just on pagan alters, but in well educated human hearts and minds" Richard Keyes
I need to, but I'm not totally sure that I want to give them up when I find them.
"Every self exists in relation to values perceived as making life worth living. A value is anything good in the created order - any idea, religion, object or person in which one has an interest, from which on derives significance...These values compete...In time on is prone to choose a center of value by which other values are judged. When a finite value has been elevated to centrality and imagined as a final source of meaning, then one has chosen a god." Thomas C. Oden
I think we often picture idols (other than little statues) as negative influences or things. They can be ugly things like greed, addictions, and lusts. Idols can also be relationships, ambition, career, religion, family, quality of life, comfort or approval. Suddenly idolatry hits closer to home. A little too close to home.
In our adult Sunday School class we are working through the study by Timothy Keller "Gospel in Life" and we were studying idolatry today...hence the thought process in my head being displayed here.
The question that was asked to help us identify our idols was "What is your greatest nightmare? What do you worry about most?"
What is something that we perceive makes life worth living and gives us our identity, security, purpose or comfort? These things are not necessarily bad things....in fact they can be gifts, commands, blessings, or institutions designed by God. We are the ones that distort them into something we glorify above God.
"Why do we lie, fail to love, or break our promises, or live selfishly? Of course the general answer is because we are weak and sinful, but the specific answer is that there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy, something that is more important to our heart that God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires. The key to change is therefore to identify the idols of the heart" Timothy Keller
Could it be that all other commandments are broken because of this one broken commandment of idolatry?
Christians lie, deceive and cover up sin because they don't ultimately trust that Christ can be glorified in their brokenness. We value our own image, respect, approval or status above Christ and his work in us and around us. We would rather break God's commandments and destroy other people, than set aside our own idol.
People fail to love people like Christ does because we idolize our own piety, wisdom, power, sense of superiority, or control. We look in disdain at others we consider undesirable, disqualified, or unworthy and bow down to our own pride.
I fail to trust in God's justice and sovereignty because I am bowing to the idol of control and approval.
(that and I totally lack patience)
I feel that I need to be vindicated, approved of, understood, and generally liked for my life to be complete . Without it I get frustrated and hurt.
I have been placing my own perceived needs , desires and expectations above my trust in God.
He knows the truth. He understands the situation and He will bring justice and mercy, just not in my timeline or in my way. He has brought me to this place (which there may or may not be an earthly escape from) for a reason. I should be able to rest in that knowledge. I want to trust. I need to trust.
"All those who do not at all times trust God and do not in all their works or sufferings, life and death, trust in His favor, grace and good-will, but seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep this Commandment, and practice real idolatry," Martin Luther
What do I perceive makes my life worth living?
Being a good mother
being a foster mom
being a wife
making a comfortable home for my family
being respected and loved
What if anyone of these things, or all of them, were taken? If I found myself childless, husbandless, homeless, friendless, or lying in bed unable to move or speak what would I be? If I became like Job...where would my identity be found?
I'm not suggesting for a second that we distance ourselves from these things, stop working, or that we can love our families too much. We can however love them in the wrong way and with the wrong priorities. We can put our security and pride in relationships, bank accounts, or careers instead of God. Where is my self worth found?
Could I , like Abraham, lay my Isaac on the alter? Isaac not only represented a long waited for, immensely loved, treasured child but a calling, a purpose, a future and a promise. Can I place my own purpose, my future and my calling in God's hands trusting Him completely with it?
The funny thing is I can cling, try to control , strive, and make my life burdened ...but ultimately it can all be lost in a second. I can't even will my own heart to beat, never mind change anyone else's.
This is a checklist taken from the book "Gospel in Life" that helped me to recognize areas of my life that have become idols. Very thought provoking...obviously by the length of my rant.
Now for those of you who are brave enough, read the following list carefully and contemplatively. Precede the following statements with "My life only has meaning or I only have worth if...".
" Life only has meaning/ I only have worth if......
-I have power and influence over others (power idolatry)
-I am loved and respected by ________ ( approval idolatry)
-I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of __________ ( control idolatry)
-Someone is there to protect me and keep me safe (dependence idolatry)
-I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone (independence idolatry)
-I am being recognized for my accomplishments, and I am excelling in my work (achievement idolatry)
-I am highly productive and getting a lot done (work idolatry)
-I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, quality of life, and very nice possessions (materialism idolatry)
-I am adhering to my religion's moral codes and accomplished in its activities (religion idolatry)
this one person is in my life and happy to be there, and or happy with me (individual person idolatry)
-I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and am living by self made morality (irreligion idolatry)
-my race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior (racial idolatry)
-a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in (inner ring idolatry)
-my children and/or my parents are happy and happy with me (family idolatry)
-Mr or Ms. "right" is in love with me (relationship idolatry)
-I am hurting, in a problem; only then do I feel worthy of love or able to deal with guilt (suffering idolatry)
-my political or social cause is making progress and ascending in influence and power (ideology idolatry)
-I have a particular kind of look or body image (image idolatry)
- What are you worshiping?
- What is sitting on the throne of your heart today?
- What if Jesus said to you “sell it all and follow me”? Would you do it?