I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about idols in my life lately. I think a lot of people assume that when the Old Testament talks about idols, they are referring to a statue. The truth is that anything that replaces the worship of God is an idol. When we care too much what people think, that is an idol. When we love comfort more than obeying God, that is an idol. When we feel like we deserve something and have earned it, that is putting our wants and needs above what God wants.
Paul David Tripp says this:
The question is not whether you will worship, but rather what you will worship–your glorious Creator or something he created. (New Morning Mercies, November 25)
Good things can replace the Giver of those things in my heart. A desire for a good thing becomes a bad thing when that desire become a ruling thing….we are all still tempted to put the gift in the place that the Giver alone should occupy. (New Morning Mercies, November 19)
Spiritual Fakery is one of the chief tools of the enemy….fear of man can masquerade as a sensitive heart towards the needs of others….bondage to the opinions of others can masquerade as a commitment to community. (New Morning Mercies, October 31)
I went to a marriage conference this weekend and I laughed when the speaker, Dr. Stuart Scott was talking about a husband that thought he was God. He said “He is looking for a vacancy in the trinity.” Isn’t that true of all of us though? I find myself wanting to control the little kingdoms I’ve created. I am noticing more and more that I am selfish and greedy with my time, my energy, and my things. These are idols. And my heart longs for them if I don’t keep them in check. That is why the hymn says “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love…” Because without God’s help, we will wander and leave. It’s only by God’s grace that He calls us His own and brings us into the fold.
Jeremiah 17:9 says this about our hearts:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
And this passage in James 1 sheds light on our hearts further:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
There have been times where I felt like God was hiding something from me. Why is this so hard? Why can’t I “get it”? Yes, I did need Christ to open up my eyes to help me see my sin–all of which were idols and desires that were in my own heart. It was not God’s fault, but my own. Romans 1 explains it further:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Frightening. We have no excuses. Even those who are sinning and blinded by their sin–they have zero excuses on Judgment Day. God has made everything plain to them. The reason why we don’t understand is because of our sin. And for us Christians, we are being renewed day by day. We have to put off our old sinful nature and put on the new nature of Christ and His holiness.
Romans 6 instructs us how to live:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (vs. 11-14)
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (vs. 17-18)
Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (vs. 19-23)
I have idols in my heart and so what do I do with them? How do I rid myself of them? It’s not easy. Romans 6 tells me to not be a slave to those idols. Instead, I need to offer myself to God and become His slave. That sounds like a horrible thing–to be someone’s slave. But when we are slaves of righteousness, we no longer are in bondage to the things that once held us down. I am finding as I let go of these idols, there is real freedom. I am free to love because I don’t have to fear being rejected. I am free to be bold in my faith, because I don’t have to fear or worry about what others will think of me. I can live life knowing that my Creator knows me, loves me, and takes care of everything. When I’m in bondage to my own idols, I am frantic, nervous, and anxious or depressed. My tiny little kingdom of self is suffocating. God’s kingdom is life-giving.
If you look at the verse I started with (Jeremiah 10), the author’s heart is right where we need to be–asking for God to correct us but knowing He has the power to bring us to nothing, yet He loves us and cares for us enough to want us to be more like Himself.
I’ll conclude with Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.