A sad reality of most people’s hearts is that there is a mix of various things. And those things can even be contradictory or competing things. We talk of a ‘love-hate’ relationship, or of people who are co-dependent, putting up with things they don’t like.
We are warned that our human heart is deceitful and really very wicked. And we know there are hidden things in our lives, such as our hidden agendas and self-serving ambitions.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
“We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty” 2Corinthians 4:2
“No secret will remain concealed, and everything hidden will be known and come to light.” Luke 8:17
I want to challenge you about mixed things in your heart and life. The example I draw from is the Children of Israel in their whole life as a nation.
Israel became a nation as slaves in Egypt. They had God’s promise over them, tracing from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they also looked to idols. Their unfaithfulness to God was so bad God even thought of destroying them before ever Moses came to set them free.
“They did not forsake the idols of Egypt. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them in Egypt. But for the sake of my name, I brought them out of Egypt.” Ezekiel 20:8,9
When I first heard of Moses leading the people out I pictured a people amazed at their God and completely faithful to Him. But that is not how it was.
“The people of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws” Ezekiel 20:13
“Yet I looked on them with pity and did not destroy them in the wilderness.” Ezekiel 20:17
I also imagined God’s people totally devoted to Him as God gave them the Promised Land. But it was not so.
“When I brought them into the land I swore to give them and they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices to idols” Ezekiel 20:28
Those various high places where they worshipped idols remained a normal part of life for Israel, while they also worshipped God in the Temple and with the various Feasts God required.
“But the high places were not taken away: the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.” 2Kings 12:3
So God’s people worshipped God and they worshipped idols at the same time. That is why God sent prophets to warn them they would be punished, and that’s why they were taken into captivity in Babylon.
So we see it is perfectly possible to worship God and also have idols in our heart.
The New Testament explains that the things we wish to have are a basis for idolatry.
“Put to death therefore your earthly impulses: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5
Covetousness prompts idolatry in two ways. One is that we idolise and seek the object itself, such as success, money, fame, possessions and the like. Another is that we give ourselves to the process that will provide what we want.
A simple example is someone who is fearful and wants security. So they wear a charm or do similar idolatrous things in the hope of being kept safe.
In western culture people worship education, career, material possessions, appearance, popularity, information, technology, the latest and most fashionable things, food, indulgence, ease, health, security, pleasure, immoral living, impressing people, and many other things. These are idols.
In Asia I heard of people from the Hindu faith, which has many gods, who would add Jesus to their collection of deities. Each deity represents a different benefit offered to the worshipper, so Jesus with all He provides was seen as just another god to add to the collection.
That’s how westerners are too. They worship self and personal advancement, so they chase money, eduction, career, relationships, and so on, but they also add Jesus for the benefits Jesus brings.
This is blatant idolatry. It is just as the Israelites did back in Egypt, in the wilderness and in the Promised Land. God was close to totally destroying them for what they were doing.
So how do you think God feels about how you are living?
Friends, I too am a product of this culture. I understand that we are programmed to worship all the things others chase after. We each have to choose between the glittering things of the world, that appeal to our human instinct, or the worship of God.
We each need to die to self and live for Christ, without the mixture of other things we also worship, along with worshipping God.
The wonderful news is that the world and our fleshly instincts don’t bring us any lasting benefit, but Christ brings us everything that is of value in this life and the next.
So, as you reflect on this and clean out your heart, may you no longer be among those who are Christians With Idols.