Who do you love? What do you love? How would those closest to you describe you?
Each of us have two identities: one public and one private. Sometimes the two coincide; often the image we project is vastly different than who we are in our heart of hearts. For me, it’s so much easier and seemingly less painful to keep the “real-ness” of who I am a secret to most people. But it’s time to get real. It’s time to shed the mask and fess up to my sin of idolatry.
You see, we do all kinds of things to project the image we want to be known for. As I type this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop wearing yoga gear and Chacos. Earbuds are in place, and a made-to-order caffeinated drink sits in front me. My Jeep is parked right outside the door. It’s like I just came from the gym and now I’m luxuriating on my iPad and checking out the latest bands before I meet my friends for some outdoorsy adventure. Problem is, all of the above is false. I’m sitting inside because it’s too hot to be outdoors, much less go hiking or rock-climbing. I don’t take yoga classes or even belong to a gym. My earbuds are playing classical music. I couldn’t tell you the name of one song on the pop charts. And my Jeep has features that will never be used…4WD, anyone?
What a poser, you may be thinking. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m not the only one…any of this sound familiar?
We wear brands and styles that sell the lifestyle we want to emulate. And we wait for people to notice.
We drape ourselves in jerseys to let everyone know what team we support. We plaster bumper stickers on our cars. And we fight tooth and nail defending our side’s merits.
We drive vehicles that tell other motorists how important we are. And we impatiently overlook the less-fortunate drivers whose cars can’t keep up.
We fly flags proudly to represent our nationality, our sexuality, our faith, or our heritage. And we cause misunderstandings and misgivings when the flag we fly is controversial or offensive.
We sacrifice daily on the altar of public opinion, all too quick to ignore or cover up the thing that makes us who we are in order to make everyone else think we’re something more – more adventurous, more attractive, more spiritual, more well-off, more right.
So what is it that makes us, well, us? And why is it so easy to ignore our deepest, truest parts?
It’s been said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Your soul is the essence of who you are. Wrapped up in your soul is who God created you to be, all uniquely yours. The depths of our souls cry out in worship. It’s what they were made to do. In a perfect world, we would worship only our Father God. In our fallen reality, we worship everything but Him.
God knew when He gave us free will that this was likely to happen. I remember reading in the Old Testament the account of Israel being led by God through a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke as they escaped captivity and made their way towards the Promised Land. Just pause and absorb the reality of how closely this group saw, heard, and felt His presence! One part of this story always dumbfounded me. In Exodus 32, Moses is up on the mountain talking to God. Everyone down in the valley got tired of waiting, decided to take matters in their own hands, and formed a golden calf to worship. These people, who had witnessed the undeniable power of Jehovah with their own eyes, who walked on dry land where there should have been sea, who had received daily provision from Heaven, these people crafted a statue and declared it their new God. I mean, really?? How could someone who had experienced the true, miracle-working presence of a Holy God be so quick to deny Him?
And yet, even as the people were melting their jewelry, God was handing down the rules to Moses. Exodus 20:3 gives the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Back in the day, and in some cultures still today, idols have been worshipped in place of God. When we hear the word idolatry, we most likely envision statues in temples. The Bible clearly states in various places just how common and dangerous idolatry really is. Isaiah 2:8 reads, “Their land is full of idols; the people worship things they have made with their own hands.”
Because most of us don’t physically bow down to some graven image, we think we’re off the hook. We fail to recognize the immense tendency we have to worship anything and everything besides the only One who deserves our adoration. We must own up to the fact that as modern-day Americans, we are a most idolatrous generation. We too have experienced miraculous redemption and transformation, provision and grace. We live with His presence IN us! And just like the Israelites, we have focused our worship on creation rather than the Creator. It’s time to take some personal inventory and examine our hearts for traces of hidden gods. Because as Dr. Phil likes to say, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”
So what’s the big deal? Who really cares if we drive a nice car, spout off football stats to win an argument, wear the latest trends, or fly a flag from our porch, our car, or our Facebook page? I’m not hurting anyone and it’s none of their business anyway! No harm no foul, right?
The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s wrong. Satan is deceiving you if you’ve convinced yourself that what you choose to project into the public eye has no bearing on anyone else’s life but your own.
Especially if you proclaim the name of Christ.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that rooting for the home team or being interested in fashion is wrong. I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t defend your convictions. And if God has blessed you with nice possessions, who am I to tell you not to enjoy His gifts?
My point is this: these things aren’t wrong in and of themselves. They become sinful when they dethrone Jesus and take His rightful place as the thing we worship…
When we spend more time shopping than we do with our Heavenly Father.
When we know more about our favorite players on our number one team than we know about the character of our Savior.
When we constantly seek approval from our peers but never seek God’s will through prayer.
When the flag we fly (literally or figuratively) causes pain, shame, fear, or anger but we fly it anyway.
The unsaved world scrutinizes believers, looking for a reason to follow Christ. Sadly, we give them plenty of reasons to reject Him instead. The gods of our hearts look and sound just like theirs.
So what do people see when they look at you? Better yet, what does God see when His eyes rest upon you?
Psalm 106:36 speaks of idols becoming a snare to those who serve them. What’s got you trapped and ensnared?
Jonah 2:8 says, “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Is your hope and conviction that God loves you diminishing? Have you forsaken your soul’s deepest desire by paying regard to vain idols?
Mercifully, God is all about second, third, hundredth chances. He’s a living, breathing, REAL being who responds when we put Him back where He belongs in our life. I know from first-hand experience how precious Christ becomes when I give up the idols that keep me from loving Him.
When we die to self and bow in surrender to our King of Kings, something miraculous happens: suddenly it doesn’t matter so much what we’re wearing or who we’re impressing (or not impressing). We gain the ability to lower any flags that previously flew higher than the cross and in their place unfurl the flag of the Gospel. When we realize that NOTHING is worth proclaiming more than the name of Jesus Christ, we lift up our Creator in all we do and say. We worship the one true God instead of false idols made with our own hands.
So what idols are you struggling to dethrone in your own life? I’m praying for you as you ask God to reveal hidden idols in your heart and seek the courage to worship Him alone as King and Lord of your life. Victory is found in Christ!
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
1 John 5:21