My Grampa has the habit to say, when we leave, “keep yourself from idols,” (quoting 1 John 5:21). Well, today when he came into our house, he asked me, “Are you keeping away from idols?”
Sometimes blunt questions like that are what we need to start thinking again. Once someone asked my Daddy, “how is your prayer life?” and from then I decided that if anyone ever asked me that question the answer should be one I am not afraid or ashamed to say. These questions make us think, and really convict. “What has God been teaching you lately?” “What stuck out to you when you read the Bible today?” “Are you fighting your hardest?” “Where are your eyes fixed?” “Are you keeping away from idols?”
The concept of idols has been on my mind for a few months. Because anything that I place in greater priority than God is my idol (Exodus 20:2-3). And how often a day do I catch my priorities drifting and have to straighten them out? How often do I find that I have set up an altar in my heart that is not to the true and living God? Brutally yet honestly put, how often do I find that God is not my God?
In my head, I know that He is God. But my heart esteems other things as worth more than Him. How can I do this? HOW? How can anything in this world even compare to a fraction of the holiness of God? Why then do I yet trade the incorruptible God for mere stuff (Romans 1:22-23)?
I often call this “taking my eyes off the prize” or “not fighting hard” or “struggling” but bluntly put it is idolatry. Humbling as it is to say so, it is true and forward and to the point and I cannot call it by a name that glazes it over in my mind. It’s idolatry. Allowing stuff to become more important to me than my Savior, Redeemer, best Friend, Creator, holy and perfect God.
A week or two ago, I was doing my chores, and God asked me two questions. First He said, “What are you willing to give up for me?” And I thought for a little while, and in my head, I knew that the answer should be “everything.” Then He asked me, “What are you holding onto that you are unwilling to give up for Me?” And I started to think about that.
Then, later, I was listening to a message, and the speaker challenged everyone to write on a piece of paper “things I refuse to give to God,” list them on that sheet and sign it at the bottom. Again, the same question came to my mind, “What are you holding onto that you are unwilling to give up for Me?”
I’ve been feeling so discouraged lately. Encouraged by the things others have said, encouraged by the exhortations and lessons from those older and wiser than me, encouraged by my brothers and sisters in Christ who love Him. But I’ve been so discouraged too and feeling as if there is this wall between me and my God, something that is holding me back from growing closer to Him, something that is hindering my prayers from going past the roof. And I keep wondering, what is wrong with me? What is keeping me from my God? Is it my flesh, is it my sin, is it an attack, is it a test, is it mere feelings that need to be controlled? And how do I determine that? I’ve been feeling so discouraged.
But I think that the Lord showed me today what is wrong by sending Grampa to ask me that question. “Are you keeping yourself from idols?” Are there things in my life right now that I need to take out of first place? Are there tables set up in my heart, the temple of the living God, tables that are for buying and selling merchandise where there ought to be worship, tables that need to be stormed and overturned and kicked out (John 2:13-16)? Do I need to get a whip of cords and conquer my fleshly habits of setting up idols in the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 6:19)? I think so!
Remember that list of things that I’m not willing to give to God? Those are my idols. Those are the things that are hindering me from living a sold out, radical life for the Savior who died for me. Am I keeping myself from idols? What am I holding onto that I am not willing to give to Christ? When are those tables going to be removed?
“Their sorrows shall be multiplied who hasten after another god;
their drink offerings of blood I will not offer, nor take up their names on my lips.
O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.
I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:4-6, 8, 11