Friday, September 22, 2023

Rival Affections

Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. (1 John 5:21 NLT)

We tend to imagine idol worship as lying prostrate before a carved image. And clearly that would be idolatry. But idolatry can take many forms. And no doubt it’s a problem that even believers living in the twenty-first century will face.

The Bible tells us that during the Tribulation, idol worship will be rampant. Revelation 9:20 says, “But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk!” (NLT).

Idols can be many things. But essentially an idol is anyone or anything that takes the place of God in our lives. A lot of things can qualify as an idol in our lives. And it is a true but terrifying fact that a person can attend church every week and still be a full-fledged idolater.

In the Ten Commandments, God tells us that we should have Him as our God and have no other gods before Him. 

He said, “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods” (Exodus 20:4-5 NLT).

Jesus echoed this when He said, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 NLT).

Essentially Jesus was saying that if you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, it will dramatically impact the way that you live.

If we love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds, then nothing else can take God’s place in our lives. We won’t be interested in another god any more than someone who just had a delicious dinner of filet mignon would be attracted to roadkill. Our hunger has been met. We’re satisfied.

But when we’re not cultivating a close relationship with God, then it is only a matter of time until someone or something takes His place.

When Moses left the Israelites to receive the commandments from God on Mount Sinai, the people went to Aaron and asked him to make them an idol, something physical to worship. The result was a calf made of gold.

But that wasn’t their first idol. Moses was. Because not long after he left their camp, they looked for something to take his place.

This can happen to us as well. We can allow something to crowd God out of our hearts. And when we look at the history of the Christian church, we’ll see that it was after people abandoned God as their first love that they turned to idols to take His place.

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