You shall have no other gods before me….Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (Exodus 20:3; 1 John 5:21)
Last time, we introduced this topic. If you wish, read Idols of the Heart (Part 1)
Review: What is An Idol?
Remember, an idol (a pretend god) is not just a physical image we bow down to. Idolatry in biblical times involved ways of living opposed to trusting and obeying the Lord. Today, an idol can be anything more important to us than God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). He is the one and only true and living God. Anything we love more than the Lord can be our “god.” Anything we think about, talk about, worry about, desire, or live for can be our idol. Christ demands first place in our thoughts, our love, our behavior. He claims every square inch of our lives.
Keeping Ourselves From Idols
How can we keep ourselves from idols? Thomas Chalmers (in “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”) reminds us that we learn to run from lesser “gods” by remembering, loving, and serving our Great God and Savior who is above all rivals and impostors. Scripture urges:
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Consider Him…lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.1
We repent of our excessive longing for power…by submitting to Jesus’ greater power within us2
We repent of our excessive longing for control…by surrendering to Christ’s ultimate control3
We repent of our excessive longing for comfort…by remembering our Heavenly Father’s greater comfort4
We repent of our excessive longing for approval…by rejoicing in our approval and acceptance in Jesus5
The Lord’s might is greater than any power we can have; His control is perfect; His comfort is satisfying; And His gracious approval is everlasting; It can never be taken away. There is no god like our God. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He gives blessings in this life, blessings when we die, and blessings when He returns for us at the end of the age.6
Focus on Jesus’ Sacrificial Love
Misplaced affections are best replaced by the expulsive energy of affection for Christ, who first loved us with His everlasting love.
The LORD your God is with you, / He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you, / He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Christian recovery programs often get this right. Rather than teaching new rules or willpower, they help people love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as our self. There is no commandment greater than these.7 Christians are not just abstainers who stop abusing alcohol, drugs, food, or gaming. We love Christ and His way of life more than self-destructive ways. We prefer fellowship with Jesus and walking with Him to these other things. Good Christian recovery programs focus on internal heart change, which only God can work in us, not just external change of behavior.
Christ Changes Everything
C. S Lewis put it this way:
Imagine yourself as a living house. Christ comes in to rebuild you. At first, you understand what He is doing. He is getting drains right and fixing leaks. You are not surprised. But soon he begins demolishing the old house in a way that hurts and does not make sense to you. Jesus is building a very different house from what you expected, putting on a new wing and an extra floor, building towers and courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little bungalow, but the Lord is building you into a palace, a temple of the Holy Spirit. Christ intends to come and live in you Himself!8
In closing, remember that we tear down heart idols and self-destructive behaviors only when Christ gets the first, primary, supreme, most important, and highest ranking place in our lives. I am still learning this myself, but Dennis Jernigan’s song “You Are My All In All” expresses my heart’s desire:
1. You are my strength when I am weak / You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all / Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I’d be a fool / You are my all in all
Chorus: Jesus, Lamb of God / Worthy is Your name (repeat)
2. Taking my sin, my cross, my shame / Rising again I bless Your name
You are my all in all / When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup / You are my all in all
Prayer: Lord, help us to love you this way, remembering that you first loved us and sent your Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 Heb 12:1-3. 2 Eph 5:18. 3 Ecc 3:12-14. 4 2 Cor 1:3-4. 5 Gal 2:20,3:13; Num 6:24-26. 6 I have taught on some of these blessings in other articles, but see Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 32-38. 7 Mark 12:29-31 (Quoting Deut 6:4,5; Lev 19:18). 8 Adapted from Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis (first published in 1952), Samizdat edition (2014), p. 110.