2-19-23 Kasey Campbell: The Idols we Follow

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Last week, in case you missed it, we talked about the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked how to get into heaven. He asked ‘how to inherit eternal life.’ This is in Luke 18. This young man thought he was a pretty good person, and so when Jesus asked if he had followed all of the ten commandments, he quickly said ‘yes.’ Of course, we know that nobody (except Jesus) can keep all of God’s commandments perfectly. Jesus knew that too, so he challenged the young man based on the first and second commandments; Luke 10:27 NKJV So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” He actually told the rich young ruler to sell everything and follow Him, which revealed that this kid had a lot of things in his life he actually loved more than he loved God. He had a lot of idols in his life, even though he wasn’t really aware of them, and they stopped him from following Jesus. That message has been posted, so if you want more of tha backstory, feel free to listen to it. The point of that recap, though, was that this young man had idols in his life - there were things in his heart that he loved more than he loved God, and it stopped him from experiencing the fullness of life with Jesus, a life as a person who, like the disciples, could receive life, mercy, fulfillment, power, grace, truth. And today, I want to talk about the idols in our lives that hold us back from loving God fully. You see, we become what we worship. The things we love and hold dear will become what we look like. I’ll explain that a little later, but this is what Jesus means when He says matthew 6:21 NKJV “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He’s saying that if you value God more than anything else, if you worship Him and He is your greatest treasure, then your heart will start to look like His. The idols of our heart | 1 You’ll be formed into the image of Jesus and you’ll start to share the heart of God with others. But if you put something else in God’s place, you’re worshiping an idol. If you do that, you start to form a different kind of heart, one that reflects what you worship. But let’s pray before we jump in. PRAY. Before I get totally into what idols we can struggle with in our lives, or what things we can put above God, I want to give you a more solid definition of what we mean today, in church, when we talk about idols. As you may know, many different cultures make idols. An idol is a formed image; it’s a representation or a symbol of something people worship. We could just say it’s a false god. An idol is usually some kind of statue or something humans have made to substitute for the true God. The prophet Isaiah went into some detail about idols and people who make them, and I can imagine him just shaking his head while talking about them! Isaiah 44:10-20 NLT Who but a fool would make his own god—an idol that cannot help him one bit? 11 All who worship idols will be disgraced along with all these craftsmen—mere humans— who claim they can make a god. They may all stand together, but they will stand in terror and shame. 12 The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool, pounding and shaping it with all his might. His work makes him hungry and weak. It makes him thirsty and faint. 13 Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood and draws a pattern on it. He works with chisel and plane and carves it into a human figure. He gives it human beauty and puts it in a little shrine. 14 He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. 15 Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire. With it he warms himself and bakes his bread. Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god to worship. He makes an idol and bows down in front of it! 16 He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm. He The idols of our heart | 2 says, “Ah, that fire feels good.” 17 Then he takes what’s left and makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down in front of it, worshiping and praying to it. “Rescue me!” he says. “You are my god!” 18 Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. 19 The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, “Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?” 20 The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?” The Bible says that the poor fool who turns to idols instead of the true God feeds on ashes. He’s not eating the living bread of life, or drinking living water. If a person makes their own God, they’re fooling themselves. People still make their own gods today; did you know that? I’m not talking about with wood and clay and bowing down as much as I am about what people give their time to, what drives them, what gives them identity; what they live for and what they worship. I want to get into what these idols, or little gods are that we make, things we worship instead of God that cause us harm. Kyle Idleman writes: “idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather, it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually, you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes his rightful place, you will not have victory. Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue.” It’s from his book called “gods at war,” and I learned a lot of this stuff from that book.1 1 Idleman, Kyle. Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart. Zondervan, 2018. Scribd, https://www.scribd.com/read/390693825/Gods-at-War-Defeating-the-Idols-that-Battle-for-Your-Heart. Accessed 18 February 2023 The idols of our heart | 3 The point is that God wants us to stay far away from the idols we worship instead of Him, because it causes us harm. 1 John 5:21 AMP Little children (believers, dear ones), guard yourselves from idols—[false teachings, moral compromises, and anything that would take God’s place in your heart]. They harm us because the idols start to take away God’s place in our hearts. So what are some of these things we look to instead of God? You may be able to think of more on your own (there are a lot), but today we’ll just break them down into three categories: idols of pleasure, idols of power, and idols of love. I want to add, too, that pleasure, power, and love aren’t necessarily bad things. It’s often good things in life that get twisted so that we pursue them at all costs instead of pursing God at all costs. But the Bible says that following God is fun - we will get pleasure from it. Psalm 16:11 NKJV You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. It’s just that we should worship God, not pleasure. It’s the same with power. Power can be a good thing. The bible says that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us. That’s Acts 1:8. It’s power to walk like Jesus walked, it’s power to tear down idols, and it’s power to tell others about Jesus and live a life consecrated to Him. It’s the same with love, too. Love is a great thing if we don’t make an idol out of it. Solomon tried pursing pleasure for a while. He found it wasn’t as great as he thought. God is love, He is the God of love, and he is the only God who loves; but love is not God. What I mean by that is that God is a person. He isn’t a feeling. He isn’t a force or an aura or an idea about love, He is the Supreme Being Who Is the embodiment of love itself, and we see that made manifest through Jesus Christ. The idols of our heart | 4 And so my point is that many things we tend to worship in our lives, what we sacrifice for, what we give our time, our resources, our thoughts to - can be good things, but they aren’t God. And when we worship them instead of God, we have an idol on our hands. Let’s talk about some idols of pleasure. Solomon decided on day to chase pleasure for it’s own sake. He didn’t think it turned out to much. Ecclesiastes 2:1 NET I thought to myself, “Come now, I will try self-indulgent pleasure to see if it is worthwhile.” But I found that it also is futile.” People spend trillions of dollars each year trying to make themselves happy, whether it’s with food, entertainment, travel, drugs or drink, or with one of the countless other items that promise to turn your frown upside down. But when we worship pleasure, the result is actually pain. One pleasure idol we can turn to for comfort is food. That’s why it’s called comfort food, right? But who is our comforter? The Holy Spirit. John 14:16 KJV And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. One commenter writes,“A very large part of mankind’s ills and of the world’s misery is due to the rampant practice of trying to feed the soul with the body’s food.” Of course we need food, but God says he is our bread - he is our food. John 6:35 NKJV And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. God sent Jesus to satisfy our hunger for eternal life and right relationship with Him. The way a person eats this bread is by recognizing who Jesus is (God), why He came (so we could have life and have it more abundantly), and choosing to respond by faith in His Name. The idols of our heart | 5 Another pleasure idol can be sex. Our culture has consistently and repeatedly twisted what is good and bad in this area, but God created it, and He has a plan for it that’s good. One of the Hebrew words for sex is actually translated “a mingling of the souls” because it can bring pleasure and intimacy; when done God’s way, it’s a spiritual act that is a beautiful gift. Isn’t it sad how some of the richest and most beautiful gifts from God are often the same gifts that are twisted into hideous and destructive idols? And this one is very damaging when it’s pursued outside of God’s plan. 1 Corthinthians 6:17-19 NKJV “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,” The god of sex dehumanizes people, causes shame, causes both physical and spiriutal damage, and keeps people in deep chains of bondage and slavery. And Jesus wants to heal, restore, and free anyone caught in it and bring His grace, purity, and righteousness to bind the brokenhearted and set the captives free. The god of sex offers a counterfeit joy that becomes more elusive through time, ever harder to please, ever closer to emptiness. But the love of Christ only opens up to deeper joys, becoming ever greater. And the third pleasure idol I’ll talk about is entertainment. You can pick whatever you want with this one. One professor says that sports is america’s newest and fastest-growing religion, with stadium temples, weekend pilgrimages, fan chants and cheers as worship and sacrifices of billions and billions of dollars. There’s celebrity culture and celebrity news, there video games and social media, new technology, movies, books, music, and fitness and on and on. I’m sure I’m missing some. What used to be an escape has become inescapable. The idols of our heart | 6 One Pastor writes something that I think hits all of us somewhere: if time is money, the gods of entertainment get a lot more than a tithe from most of us. Meanwhile, God often loses out when competing for our time and attention. Ouch. So pleasure idols could be food, sex, or entertainment. Power idols could be success, money, or achievement. The gods of success appeal to pride. They’re about personal achievement, rewards we chase and get for ourselves. Is life going to be good? Are we going to be satisfied? The gods of success give us very convenient ways to keep score: the title after our name, the amount on our paycheck, the square footage house. We put our hope and find our identity in what the god of success offers. And so we climb and claw our way to the top. Remember last week's story of the rich young ruler asking Jesus a question? He ran up to Jesus, bowed down before Him and asked Luke 18:18 NKJV Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In essence, he wants to know what he has to do to be successful in God’s kingdom. That’s not a terrible question to ask Jesus (the disciples asked a similar one about who was the greatest), but did you notice where he puts the emphasis? He asks, “What must I do to inherit?” The Greek word for ‘inherit’ could be translated as “acquire” or “earn.” This man is assuming that eternal life is something he can achieve, work hard to get, or something he can add to his résumé. It’s a red flag signaling that the god of success, achievement, or reputation are at high in someone’s life. For this rich young ruler, salvation is something that can be earned. Worshiping the gods of success isn’t just about secular accomplishments and commendations. It’s not just getting caught up with job titles and social status. In fact one of the most common gods of success is the worship of religious rules. The idols of our heart | 7 We put our trust in our own mastery of rule-keeping. That kind of religion stinks and doesn’t even have the results we think it will. Like we talked about last week, sometimes ‘good people,’ or people who are successful and well thought of and disciplined, have the hardest time coming to Jesus because they don’t need Him. They’ve got this thing all wrapped up on their own. But like the rich young ruler, it just ends in sadness. But Jesus has a remedy. He says lay it down. Follow Him and experience true success in His kingdom, a kingdom that won’t fade away. Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” He says, come all who labor. You’re working too hard trying to get all this stuff for yourself, trying to get salvation by working for it and getting ahead in life. Lay it down. Come find rest for your soul, and peace for your mind and body. Come and be loved. But don’t turn love into an idol. That the next set - idols of love. One idol of love could be romantic love - the search for love and acceptance and deep connection with another person. One could be family, putting parents, kids, or other family members above God. C.S. writes a story about a woman had this confused - and an angel tells her, “You only exist as a mother because you first exist as God’s creature,” “That relationship is older and closer.” He goes on to explain that “human beings can’t make one another really happy for long. . . . You can’t fully and truly love a fellow creature till you fully and truly love God.” We see this show up in the Bible, too. Remember Abraham? God asked him if he was willing to sacrifice his son, his promise, his joy in order to follow God fully. The idols of our heart | 8 Genesis 22:1-14 NKJV Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” 6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. 9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” 12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The idols of our heart | 9 The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” Abraham didn’t turn love for family or children into an idol, even though he cared about it a lot. And what happened is that he ended up with multitudes and multitudes of descendants, children and children’s children, and more. Now the last one, and I’ll close with this, is love of self. Now, of course, it’s healthy to love yourself in terms of you are a beloved son or daughter of God and you learn and grow and live and feel. I’m not talking about loving yourself with a healthy identity in Christ, or having good boundaries or learning how to balance serving others while also managing your personal needs. I think we get that. I’m talking about a heart attitude that always puts ‘me first.’ I’m talking about things like always serving myself first in conversations (making it always and only about me), serving myself first with my time and with my treasure and resources. There are a lot of ways we can probably think up. Some symptoms of this include arrogance, pride of life, insecurity, and defensiveness. The god of me will make you lonely, because you can’t handle equals. That person certainly can’t handle authority - they become a monster. They only surround themselves with other people who constantly reaffirm that it’s all about them. It comes down to this choice: I know that Jesus is real, He’s the One true God, and He is the master of all creation and knows how to run my life better than I can. I also know there’s the god of me, the pretender to the throne. There are also lots of other gods to choose from. But who will I serve? What will I sacrifice for? What do I put my trust in? Where do I look for confort? In my brokenness, I feel the pull to worship me, I feel dragged towards idols and self and pleasure and power and whatever catches my fancy. It’s the same thing Adam and Eve faced in the garden. Will I take control and try to be God of myself? Will I give control to a serpent or something else? The idols of our heart | 10 Every day is a trip to that orchard; every day, the snake is waiting. I must face this same choice: Will I worship God, and find my true place in this universe, the perfect place he has arranged for me? Or will I worship a creation and decide I can come up with a better life than the Creator of all could design? Let’s pray. The idols of our heart | 11
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