“Idols of the Heart” February 4

 

Idols of the Heart

Idols of the Heart: We are repeatedly warned, even in the New Testament, to avoid, in fact flee from, idolatry. But giant statues aren’t the only kind of idols. What “idols of the heart” do we worship that can hinder our relationships with God and with others?

 

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 19 & 20
Psalm 18.37-45
Proverbs 6.20-25
Matthew 22.23-46

 

Idols of the Heart

 

Exodus 19 & 20

The Ten Commandments

 

ten commandmentsIn chapter 19 God displays His power and majesty so that the people will have no doubt that He is God and that Moses is His representative. The need for them to be outwardly clean was a visual representation of the inward cleanliness with which they were to approach a Holy God.

Then in chapter 20 God gives the Ten Commandments to the people Himself. Later He will write them on stone tablets.

The first command is “Have no other gods before me” (20.3). This, of course, was a prohibition against worshiping false gods of any kind. It was spoken to people in a culture where most nations believed in and worshiped many gods, polytheism.

The second was to “Make no images, no likenesses of anything in heaven or on earth” (20.4). They were not to make an image of anything that was in heaven (angels, God Himself, or people who had gone to heaven) or on earth (man, woman, animals, or anything else). This command did not forbid artistic expression, but forbids the use of these items as part of our worship.

 

Idols of the Heart

 

We must also guard against idols of the heart: things that are more important to us than God.

Ezekiel 14 says, “these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity” (v. 3).

Almost anything can become an idol—success, money, power, prestige, having a better home, children, or a spouse. When addressing their “idols of the heart” God told Ezekiel to tell the people:

“Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the LORD will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the LORD'” (Ezek. 14:6-8).

Think about that phrase, “[he] puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity.” If you take something, even a good thing, and put it in front of your face, it’s hard to see Continue reading

“Could you be worshiping idols?” November 11

 

Could you be worshiping idols?Could you be worshiping idols? Don’t think so … What do you trust in to bring you pleasure, satisfaction, rescue, or escape? What are your “if only’s” and “I must’s”? Is it possible even for “good things” to become idols?

God warned His people over and over to repent and turn from idolatry. Their refusal to do so took them into captivity and cost them the loss of their land, their homes, their freedom, and often their families.

But warnings against idolatry didn’t stop with the Old Testament and weren’t limited to the worship of statues (1 Cor. 10.12-14; 1 Jn. 5.21). How can we be sure that we don’t have false gods that we’re depending on more than God Himself?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 13 & 14
Psalm 122.6-9
Proverbs 28.19
Hebrews 7.1-28

 

Could you and I be worshiping idols?

 

Ezekiel 13 & 14:

When “Sadness” is a Good Thing

 

Chapter 13.22 says, “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life.”

Ezekiel told the false prophets they had it backwards, they were making the heart of the righteous sad and actually encouraging sinners whom God had made sad as a means of saving their lives. When we merely try to make people “feel better” about sin and unrighteousness, we often get in the way of what God is doing.

 

Idols of the Heart

 

1 Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 3 “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?
4 “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD. “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”’
6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD. “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. (14.1-6)

God told the prophet to warn the people that they had “idols in their hearts.” When we think of idolatry, we usually think of some false god or statue to which we bow down, but the idols Ezekiel wrote about here were not statues; they were what the people valued, what they put their trust in.

 

Could you and I be worshiping idols?

 

An idol can be anything we want more than God Himself. It can be something that consumes our lives and pushes God out of His rightful place. It’s what we trust in to bring us pleasure, satisfaction, rescue, or escape. It’s anything we want more than pleasing God with our lives.

When we have sex outside of marriage, we may be worshiping pleasure or companionship. When we walk away from a marriage because we aren’t “happy,” we’re valuing our happiness or having our own way above pleasing God.

Even a good thing, like having a godly husband, can become an idol. If we’re willing to sin to get it (nagging, criticizing …) or sin because we don’t (withholding affection …), that thing—whether good or bad—is an idol. Continue reading

“Gospel Treason: Uncovering Our Hidden Idols” + LINKUP

 

Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols by Brad BigneyWelcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols by Brad Bigney.

 

The Bible talks a lot about idols and idolatry, both in the Old and New Testaments. Perhaps you, like me, have often skimmed over those verses as only relevant to some foreign culture with temples and giant statutes.

But are statues of Buddha, Hindu gods, and other strange religions the only forms of idolatry?

In Ezekiel 14 God, speaking to the elders of Israel, said this:

¹ Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me.And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?

“Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”’

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.

These were not carved statues. These idols were in their hearts, were causing them to stumble into sin, and separated them from God.

Sin does that. While those of us who belong to Him don’t lose our salvation. It puts a wall between us and Him and will hinder our prayers and our communion with Him.

Gospel Treason can help us uncover the idols we have in our hearts, idols we might not even recognize. Idols that are standing between us and our spiritual growth, between us and the marriage we want, between us and peace in other relationships. In short, causing chaos in our lives.

Brad does so through personal stories and a great deal of transparency. From the introduction:

My wife and I have been married for twenty-five years, but twenty years ago we were at war. There was no camouflage, there were no guns, and neither of us was crawling under barbed wire in our single-wide mobile home. But we both felt that we were constantly stepping on land mines in our relationship—putting out brushfires, running for cover, and dodging the bullets that our tongues fired back and forth. Our marriage had deteriorated into a battlefield, and we were opposing forces.

And the casualty rate was high.

He goes on:  Continue reading

November 14 “Playing spiritual pat-a-cake”

girls children playingGod will not play spiritual pat-a-cake with us by allowing us to seek His help while we continue turning to our idols and self-efforts.

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 19 & 20
Psalm 125.1-5
Proverbs 28.22
Hebrews 10.1-18

Ezekiel 19 & 20:

Spiritual patty-cake

As you’re reading the book of Ezekiel, it might help to remember that the prophet does not follow Jeremiah chronologically. Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah, although Jeremiah was about 20 years older and began his prophetic ministry over 30 years earlier. Their prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem and the various deportations cover the same events, but while Jeremiah was prophesying to the people in Jerusalem and later in Egypt where he was forced to go late in his ministry, Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon to those who had been taken captive.

In chapter 20, some of the elders of Israel living in captivity came to Ezekiel and asked him to seek the Lord on their behalf. But it’s obvious from God’s response that, despite coming to the prophet, they continued with their idolatry.

Sometimes we forget that the events of the Old Testament are historically true. These were real people and real events.

And if we’re honest, at the heart level, they were not that much different from us. How many times have we prayed and asked God for help and wisdom while we continue to try to work things out in our own strength and in our own way? How often have we turned to our idols for help (something sweet to comfort ourselves, a drink to help us relax because we’ve had a hard day, buying something to lift our spirits …) or manipulation (getting angry, pouting, crying, withholding affection …) in order to control someone or something? Continue reading

November 11 “Could you be worshipping idols?”

questions quizWhat do you trust in to bring you pleasure, satisfaction, rescue, or escape? What are your “if only’s” and “I must’s”?

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 13 & 14
Psalm 122.6-9
Proverbs 28.19
Hebrews 7.1-28

 

Ezekiel 13 & 14:

When “sadness” is a good thing

Chapter 13.22 says, “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life.”

Ezekiel told the false prophets they had it backwards, they were making the heart of the righteous sad and actually encouraging sinners whom God had made sad as a means of saving their lives. When we merely try to make people “feel better” about sin and unrighteousness, we often get in the way of what God is doing.

Idols of the heart

1 Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 3 “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?
4 “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD. “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.”’
6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD. “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. (14.1-6)

God told the prophet to warn the people that they had “idols in their hearts.” When we think of idolatry, we usually think of some false god or statue to which we bow down, but the idols Ezekiel wrote about were not just statues; they were what the people valued, what they put their trust in. Could you and I be worshipping idols?

An idol can be anything we want more than God Himself. It can be something that consumes our life and pushes God out of His rightful place. It’s what we trust in to bring us pleasure, satisfaction, rescue, or escape. It’s anything we want more than pleasing God with our lives.

When we have sex outside of marriage, we may be worshipping pleasure or companionship. When we walk away from a marriage because we aren’t “happy,” we’re valuing our happiness or having our own way above pleasing God.

Even a good thing, like having a godly husband, can become an idol. If we’re willing to sin to get it (nagging, criticizing …) or sin because we don’t (withholding affection …), that thing—whether good or bad—is an idol. Continue reading

Book Reviews: Demons, Jesus Calling & More

Donna ReidlandIt’s summer and, hopefully time for a little more reading. So here are my thoughts about some specific books and reading in general.

I’ve been wanting to include more book reviews here on my blog and when I read Laura Connell’s excellent review of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters on her blogsite God’s Girl, I thought it was time to feature a few.

Then as I scanned down to the bottom of her blog to other posts, I spotted this one. I know I may step on some toes, possibly of some people I love and respect a great deal. And while I know good Christians can disagree, when I read Laura’s comments on Jesus Calling, she was saying what I’ve been saying about the book. So here is her review of Jesus Calling. Continue reading

April 12 “Is the ‘old man’ still hanging around?”

Are there areas of your life where you have failed to have victory? Are there some habits of the old man that have crept back in or never fully left?

old man

Today’s Readings:
Joshua 13 & 14
Psalm 44.20-26
Proverbs 14.3
Luke 11.1-28

Joshua 13 & 14:

Pockets of resistance

Verse 14.15b, “Then the land had rest from war.” This was a time of relative peace, though as I said yesterday, there were still areas that needed to be fully occupied.

Isn’t that the way it is in our lives? He saves us, puts our feet on the Rock, and gives us new righteous desires, and many things in our lives change. But even though we may have quit doing a lot of the things we used to do (in many situations God has supernaturally removed the desire for those things), there are still “pockets” of resistance—areas of our lives where we hold on to “old man” (Eph. 4.22) habits.

old man

Maybe it’s a tendency to gossip, to harbor unforgiveness, to give someone the silent treatment, or to respond in sinful anger. Maybe it involves our thought lives … “After all, (we think) I’m not doing anything wrong!” We mistakenly believe we can play around with a thought or a fantasy.

The added danger is that as months and years go by without dealing with that area of sin and as we push that conviction away, we begin to sear our consciences and we become blinded. Continue reading

February 4 “Idols of the heart”

Idols of the Heart

We are repeatedly warned, even in the New Testament, to avoid, in fact flee from, idolatry. But giant statues aren’t the only kind of idols. What “idols of the heart” do we worship that can hinder our relationships with God and with others?

Today’s Readings:
Exodus 19 & 20
Psalm 18.37-45
Proverbs 6.20-25
Matthew 22.23-46

Exodus 19 & 20

The Ten Commandments

In chapter 19 God displays His power and majesty so that the people will have no doubt that He is God and that Moses is His representative. The need for them to be outwardly clean was a visual representation of the inward cleanliness with which they were to approach a Holy God.

Then in chapter 20 God gives the Ten Commandments to the people Himself. Later He will write them on stone tablets.

The first command is “Have no other gods before me” (20:3). This, of course, was a prohibition against worshipping false gods of any kind. It was spoken to a people living in a culture where most people believed in and worshipped many gods, polytheism.

The second was to “Make no images, no likenesses of anything in heaven or on earth” (20:4). They were not to make an image of anything that was in heaven (angels, God Himself, or people who had gone to heaven) or on earth (man, woman, animals, or anything else). This command did not forbid artistic expression, but forbids the use of these items as part of our worship. Continue reading