Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Getting Rid of Idols

I preached on Sunday morning on worship and idolatry. To summarize, worship is the sum and total of what you and I are doing every day of our lives. Worship, as I put it on Sunday, is "giving our utmost devotion to something, it is setting our affection on something in such a way that it changes the way we live." This is not a perfect definition, but I think it's a good working definition from what we see in the Bible. The object of worship is anything that we revere most in our lives, that which we believe we "cannot live without" - if we lost it, whatever it is, we are ruined, failures, destitute. Idolatry is worshiping anything other than the one, true God. We are all idolaters, enslaved in various ways to something other than God. Anything can become an idol in someone's life, and usually they are good things that become ultimate things, which is where the problem lies. What I want to answer is the question "How do I get rid of idols"? How can idols be defeated in my life? And remember, the object is not that which is powerful necessarily; it is the spiritual forces of darkness behind the idol, motivating and deceiving us, that is powerful.

So, how do idols get destroyed in someone's life? One option, and a wrong one, is to recognize something as an idol and then try real hard to stop making it an idol. If you realize your pursuit of money has become an idol, to try real hard and stop worrying about money so much is not the right avenue to take. Or if you realize you idolize your children, or at least their happiness and success above all else, you don't need to try and ignore them and stop caring as much for them.

The only way to truly defeat an idol in your life is to turn to the One who has defeated every idol - who went to the cross for you and dominated, for all eternity, the "rulers and authorities" of this world. Colossians 2:15 speaks of this: "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by trimphing over them in him." God the Father destroyed the idols of our heart, the rulers and authorities who deceive us, through Christ on the cross. Not only this, he also put them to open shame, showing that they are no gods at all - they cannot provide true life, they cannot save you like God can, they are not worthy of our utmost devotion and obedience like God is worthy. This is the factual way God defeated idols, it is the objective way.

There is also a subjective way God has defeated idols, or you might say a "personal" way in your life that God defeats idols. This is where the rubber meats the road, this is where heart transformation is. I ranted briefly at the end of my sermon about Christ's victory through the cross and how we are freed from their power through him, and yet if this fact only enters your brain and isn't believed in the heart it will not do any good. One of the most important things to remember is what I said at the end, that this isn't about loving anything less necessarily (don't love your kids or your spouse less... but you'll need to ditch the unhealthy dating relationship and you'll definitely need to stop the porn watching). This is about loving Christ more, about "seeing and savoring Jesus Christ", as John Piper describes it in his book by that title. Idols fade from our hearts, their grasp on us is weakened and removed, when we see God as all-satisfying, worthy of our devotion, obedience, sacrifice, and love. When God is the center, is the One we seek to honor, and when His truth becomes THE truth in our lives, idols will be removed.

Do we ever stop running after idols completely? Maybe not completely, but certainly we can to the point of returning quickly when we realize we've strayed from the only God that truly exists. The Gospel is good news... great news actually... precisely because you and I are slaves to sin, mastered by all kinds of lusts and desires, transgressors and offenders of the Most High, and yet are given grace and mercy freely from the Judge of all mankind, through his Son's sacrifice for us. He becomes our Father, King, Lord, Savior, Friend, and lives in us by his Spirit. This isn't theory, friends. This is real life, real freedom, and really worth pursuing at the cost of anything and everything.

Soli Deo Gloria

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