Today we celebrated Christ! We celebrated that He led a perfect life, stood in our place paying the penalty for our sin. We celebrated that He gave us His righteousness so we could be reconciled to God as a holy people – holy because He has called us holy. Christ hung on the cross and cried out “It is finished.” There is nothing else for us to do. The penalty was paid. We also celebrated Christ’s resurrection today because He was proven to be God when He rose from the dead, and, only the life of God carries enough value to save so many lives from their sins for all eternity! Christ’s resurrection was the proof that His sacrifice was accepted and we now have the blessed hope for eternal life.
Christ’s resurrection is a historical fact. It happened, so it is not really the event that is in question for us. What is in question is whether we (you and I) have died and been raised again with Christ to new life. Or, to say it another way, has Christ risen in us? Ephesians 4:21 says: Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy. And Galatians 2:20 says: My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. In other words, if we have truly received Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are to surrender our will to God’s and by His grace begin to live the life He has destined us for. Still, we all stumble and fall down. God helps us up and sets us back on the right path. His grace is amazing! Nonetheless, today, I want to share with you the thing I believe most often hinders us in allowing Christ to rise up in us. That thing is our propensity to worship idols. It is not news to you that we are guilty in the 21st century, as are those in the past, of forsaking God as the fountain of living waters by turning to people and things to fulfill us instead of going to God (Jeremiah 2:13). But oftentimes we don’t stop and consider what idols might be hiding within our own hearts.
Idols are “any thing or any one that takes the place in our lives that belongs only to God.” We must consider who or what has first priority with our time and resources. We should ask ourselves questions such as “Who or what has our love…our attention?” “Who or what do we trust in?” “Where do we spend our money, our time?” “Who or what is influencing us?” For some Christians their spouse or children may have become an idol. Some have even allowed their pastors to take that place. You get the idea. It is difficult for us to admit, but if we have allowed any person to be our “go to,” “our source,” “our first priority,” then we have put them in a place that is God’s and God’s only.
The ministries where we serve, our church, our job, our material belongings all can become more important to us than our relationship with God. When this happens, we find ourselves led to idolatry. Another huge idol that we often overlook is ourselves. In our narcissistic culture, many times we ourselves are the #1 idol of our hearts. This is probably the most common amongst us here in the United States, if we just get honest about it. We can ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal the hidden idols.
A fall into idolatry can be quite subtle. It begins with failing to spend time alone with God. We crowd Him out with the busyness of life thinking we will soon get back to Him. This is devastating to us as Christians because it is in this alone time that with our Father that our confidence in God is strengthened. When we fail to spend personal time with God where we talk to Him and allow Him to talk to us, we forget how much He loves us and we begin to experience emptiness. This is because God has created us in such a way that we need Him to pour Himself into us, and we need this experience daily. We need His love, His peace, His comfort, His wisdom, His strength. Nothing else will do. Scripture says God has put eternity in our hearts and without the eternal One satisfying us, we are destined to be dissatisfied. This results in a temptation to find satisfaction from people and things in our lives. Our focus begins to move more and more from God to idols. Of course, they are unable to fill us, but we easily get caught up on a merry-go-round of dissatisfaction as we experience the thrill and purpose these idols can bring to our lives, although fleeting. When the fulfillment is lost, we tend to chase after them even more, becoming even more in bondage. We experience feelings of disappointment and discouragement which drain from us energy and life. True fulfillment and peace can only be found by seeking after God (Isaiah 44:20). Our attempt to satisfy ourselves with these idols is as useless as trying to quench the thirst of the desert sand (Isaiah 55:2).
The Psalmist cries out to God in Psalm 90:14: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Satisfaction begins and ends with receiving God’s unfailing love as a reality in our life. Ignoring God, results in losing an awareness of His love. This then results in dissatisfaction and a restless soul which opens the heart to idolatry. May we break free from idolatry by drawing nearer to God. May Christ rise up a little higher in our lives so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).
The topic of idols of the heart is thoroughly discussed in my book, “Experience Real Satisfaction” released in 2010, available at Amazon.com through this link: http://tinyurl.com/d3p9ek3 .
Remember my friends, God loves you and is with you always! His plans for you are good. You can put your trust in Him!