Sunday, September 03, 2006

Idols & Idolatry

I've had a blog brewing for some time, but I wasn't quite sure what angle to write from.

Various things have motivated me, ranging from a recent visit to a christian message board that was entirely focused on the policies and performance of the Bush administration, to the fact that a friend of mine has recently revealed his faith has fallen by the wayside, and finally even my own recent struggles with sin.

Quite varied subjects that are seemingly unconnected, I think you'll agree... but they all have one thing in common...

... idolatry.

"Eh? How can that be?" I hear you cry.

Lets take a look at what idolatry really is when you get down to the core of it. Idolatry is not just praising sculptures of strange creature like gods, that is merely one aspect but the true nature of idolatry is a lot bigger.

Idolatry is letting anything... ANYTHING become bigger than God, in our hearts.

The christian message board was committing idolatry because they were looking at a man and letting him become bigger than God.

Whatever you think of George W Bush... he is still just a man. Or as I put it on the message board:
"George W. Bush is nothing... but Jesus Christ is EVERYTHING!"
People on that board had stopped encouraging and building one another up... and had begun tearing strips off one another over their politics. This was not constructive, it sent out the wrong message to non-believers and it was potentially damaging to people young in their faith because it drew their gaze away from Christ and into the worries and concerns of this world.

My friend has grown cynical because he works for a nominally Christian company. He feels that his boss takes advantage of him, but more than this... it is the company's Christian customers who are the worst for haggling - they use their mutual faith as a bargaining chip... and so dishonour the God they follow. In both cases, idolatry is at work. My friend has let his view of men and their flaws become bigger in his heart become larger than his view of God... to the point that he can't see past the darkness to experience the light. The Christians who haggle have let money become more important and should careful lest God call it to account.

As to my recent struggles with sin... yes indeed I consider sin itself a form of idolatry. When you commit sin, you take your eyes off God... but it's not just that alone. When you have been convicted of a sin, and you repent... you still struggle with that sin, at least for a time. In fact it is possible to become that hooked up on fighting sin, that you don't regain your focus on Christ. The sin has become an idol because you have allowed your perception of it to cloud your relationship with Christ. In my case, I knew I was in the wrong... but for some silly reason I was afraid to pick up the Bible because I was convinced God was going to blat me over the head with it! However, I knew in my heart what the right course of action was. so I turned to my Bible... and do you know what the passage set down in my notes for that day was? It was this:

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

I expected a smack on the head and instead found myself being warmly embraced by the arms of God. I should have known better. That is why grace is there... it bridges the gap that separates us from God in the first place... and enables us to remain on an even keel with him, after we have stumbled. As my friend later put it, God rarely has a problem with you when you know what you are and where you have been. It's when you get ideas above your station and think you are something (compared to God)... when you are nothing at all, that he tends to get angry. you can see that in the parable of the pharisee and tax collector.

So I encourage you to think about your own life at the moment... is there something you are struggling with... something that has become bigger in your perception than God? Be it a person, an object of desire, the behaviour of others.... or a sin you struggle with. I urge you to let God's grace sweep in and draw your gaze back to him.



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