Devotion to Himor
Will the real idols please stand up?
Once we become believers, we find that walking with God, like a good marriage, takes a fair amount
of work. If youíre anything like me, you want God to hand everything to you, to make you into a holy
being, filled with His Spirit, and you want it right now! However, that is not His plan. Whereas we
tend to be goal-oriented, He is more process-oriented.
Not wanting to go through the process, some Christians have spent many years wanting to take the easy way out, and not work at a relationship with Him. This was certainly the case for me for a long time in my Christian walk. I was settling for less.
Slowly, though, I began to desire Him more and more. I grew dissatisfied with the way I was, and came to the realization that the only path to true fulfillment is to be completely His. The emphasis here is on the word "completely."
Looking for flaws in my walk, trying to find the cause of my relative lack of spiritual growth, I discovered that there is an inverse relationship between the number of sacrifices I am willing to make and the number of compromises I am willing to make. In my case, I came to this point around the Spring of 1998. Although much work is left to be done, God has been able to work in me enough that I can look back and see where I have come, with some sort of perspective. In order to get what I wanted out of this relationship, I had to be totally devoted to Him. The emphasis is on the word "totally."
It occurs to me that I am not the only one who wants to attain all that God will give of Himself. How do we get it? The short answer is: you need to be fully, 100% devoted to Him. You need to be all His. The emphasis is on the word "all."
Fully devoted to HimAll. Totally. Fully. 100%. What, exactly, does that mean? There is an enemy out there, and he knows all too well the importance of this concept. It may be easier to say what it doesnít mean. In order to understand how to be fully devoted to God, we must first examine what kinds of things are placed in our lives (by the enemy) which prevent us from reaching that 100% mark. So even though itís a bit negative, letís start with just how Satan gets us off track, then weíll finish with something a little more positive.
Idolatry--The originsHave you ever studied the origins of Satan? In summary, he was an angel of God, a beautiful angel with an incredible amount of authority. You probably have heard that he was cast out of Godís presence because of pride. But do you know the details? The 28th chapter of Ezekiel gives us an idea of the very beginnings of sin, and it originated in the heart of Lucifer. His job was to take the praises of creation and bring them to God, but he chose to keep them for himself. Basically, he was kicked out of heaven for stealing Godís praise. Moreover, he has never stopped seeking to take for himself praise and worship which rightly belongs to God. Stop and digest that for a second. Satan's first sin, and the one which still drives everything he does today, is the theft of worship which belongs to God.
How does he set about accomplishing this? Simply put, through idols. Perhaps you have heard a sermon or read a bible lesson about idolatry. Typically, when a seasoned Christian thinks of idols, the first thing to come to mind is the period when kings ruled Israel. A reading of 1 and 2 Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles reveals story after story about how the nation of Israel chose to set up stone or wooden statues and make sacrifices to them instead of to God. If you have heard a sermon or two about the subject of idolatry, you will remember that usually a connection is drawn between those statues in Israel 3000 years ago and modern idols that Christians allow into their lives.
Idols in disguiseInvariably, at some point during a message like this, the television will be pointed out as a perfect example of a modern idol. It is true that most, if not all, modern Christians at times allow the tube to take up our time at the expense of our time with the Lord. With myself, it usually goes something like this: My wife goes to bed earlier than me. I watch the news, planning only to stay up long enough to catch the weather. I end up staying awake for the sports. Then, one of the late night talk shows will come on, and I promise myself only to stay around for the monologue. Then, the Top Ten list. Then, an episode or two of a late-night rerun of a show I really like, such as M*A*S*H. Next thing you know, it is close to midnight. I go to bed, only to wake up 5 hours later for my quiet time, and as you can guess, the quiet time is not as good as it could have been had I gotten a good nightís rest. I realize at this point I have sacrificed my time with the Lord for time with the TV. This is a classic case of idolatry. There is nothing blatantly satanic about the news, the Top Ten list, M*A*S*H, or TV. Yet the Enemy was able to make sure that I gave my devotion to something in place of God. Specifically, it inhibited my ability to give praise and worship to God in the time which I had set aside for that purpose.
TV is so often mentioned in discussions of idolatry because it resonates with almost all of us. However, the devil is devious, and clever enough to not be limited to one tool. There are thousands, maybe millions of schemes he has thought of to try and steal what belongs to the God of the Universe, and not all of them revolve around our time. One modern example that is reaping destruction throughout the lives of millions of men is pornography. Besides all the obvious aspects of this sin that come to mind, have you ever thought about the fact that it is a matter of giving praise to something other than God? It may not feel like praise or worship, but it is. Specifically, it is a matter or worshipping the creation instead of the Creator. In fact, this is one of the Enemyís oldest tricks. He has been up to it at least since Sodom and Gomorrah.
Whether using items such as those already mentioned, or other idols such as money, fame, power, or self-centeredness, Satan has always made it his goal to steal praise and worship that belongs to God. When we realize this, many verses and passages can be seen in a new light. When Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, the devil made a special trip to tempt Him. All three of his temptations were aimed at causing Jesus to rely on something other than His heavenly Father for strength and sustenance. Jesus still had to rely on someone; the Enemyís goal was to transfer that reliance from the Father to other things, and, ultimately to himself. First, there was the attempt to get Him to rely on bread to satisfy Jesusí hunger. Next came a shot at getting Him to place His trust in angels. Finally, Satan revealed his true intentions: he tried to get Jesus to bow down and worship him. This is where the devil showed his true colors, by doing what he has been doing since the beginning of time. Ad Jesus, recognizing this, responded with an answer that struck at the heart of His tempterís intentions:
Matthew 4:9"Then Jesus said to him, 'Begone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.''"
This is but one of many verses and passages which are made clearer by understanding the simple truth that Satanís goal is to steal praise that rightly belongs to God. Other passages make this clear, as well. For example, in John 10:10, Jesus says that the devil ďcomes only to steal, kill, and destroyĒ Anyone who has been a believer for a length of time understands what is meant by the "kill and destroy" part, but why does this verse accuse him of stealing? Indeed, why is the word ďstealĒ listed first? The answer is found by reviewing what we already know. Satan was kicked out of Godís presence for stealing Godís praise. And his goal today is the same.
Put another way, idols are Satanís way of stealing Godís praise, plain and simple. Since the subject of this lesson is how to be devoted to God, and idols stand in the way of that, how do we counter this attack? The short and simple answer is to get rid of our idols.
A cursory reading of the books which describe the history of the kings of Israel (and, by extension, of the Northern and Southern kingdoms), shows us that the kings which won Godís favor were the ones who destroyed the idols. Josiah, for example, was one of the mostly godly kings who ever ruled. The bible says that the revival that occurred in Israel during his kingship was one without comparison. One of his first acts as king was the destruction of the Ashorah and Baals. Jehu was another who was very fervent in his destruction of idols. Even Moses (though not a king), is an example for us to follow. By reading Exodus 32, we see that once he learned about the golden calf that had been made by impatient Israelites, he smashed the calf and threw the dust into the water, and then forced the idolatrous Israelites to drink from that water.
What lesson can we learn from this? If we are serious about being devoted to God, we need to recognize our own idolatry and then get rid of those idols.
Totally HisNow that we have a general understanding of what the Enemyís goal is, we have a better handle on how to deal with it. If the devilís efforts are aimed at preventing us from giving our all to God, then we should know that we will find more fulfillment, more joy, and more life when we give ourselves completely over to God. Just as the previous section demonstrated that several familiar biblical passages can be understood in a new light once we understand Satanís schemes, so too, can many other verses be newly appreciated when we see that their purpose is to encourage us to counter Satanís attack by focusing 100% on God.
Take, for example, the following verses:
Jeremiah 29:13"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all your heart.
Deuternomy 6:5"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."
Matthew 22:36-37"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to them, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'"
Psalm 95:3"For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods."
Psalm 135:5"For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods."
Now letís take a look at some lines from a selection of a few popular modern worship songs:
"I will give You all my worship, I will give You all my praise. You alone I long to worship, You alone are worthy of my praise."
"You are my strength when I am weak, You are the Treasure that I seek. You are my all in all."
"Youíre all I want. Youíre all Iíve ever needed."
Have you noticed the common thread yet? Each verse or lyric listed above mentions the word "all" or "alone." It is easy to be a practicing Christian and give to God maybe 70 or 80% of our worship, attention, and praise. But these verses donít allow for that. The word "all" means "all." Look up the word for "all" in Hebrew or Greek, and guess what? It means "all!" As for the word "alone," the emphasis is that there is no other god (read: idol) worthy of receiving any part of ourselves which rightly belongs to God.
Unite My What?To add to this, letís look at one more verse, which is interesting for its choice of words. The last part of Psalm 86:11 says: ďUnite my heart to fear Thy name.Ē Think about all the uses of the word "unite" you have ever heard. One can unite 2 people in matrimony. 50 states can be united. Many laborers can be united. It is possible to unite 2 or more things or persons. But how can you unite one of anything?
The writer of this verse obviously understands that even though he has one heart, it can be divided, with part of allegiance going toward God, and the rest toward other things, or idols.
Now, take a minute and go back and look at those snippets of scripture and songs, understanding them in light of our tendency to approach God with divided hearts. You see, God is not aiming these verses at those people who completely reject him. He is going after those people claiming to follow Him. The bible tells us of many occasions where He unleashed His wrath upon His people when they took on the idols from other nations, but you rarely see Him going after those other nations. That is because those other nations are not pretenders. They never claimed to be devoted to God. However, those of us who do claim to belong to Him are held to a higher standard. We are to mean it when we quote Matthew 22:37. We are expected to take it seriously when we sing about giving all our worship to God.
If we are serious when we say we want to devote ourselves to Him, we need to be ready to do so, without letting any of the idols of this world get in our way. If you are in a place now where you are ready to go further in your walk with Him, then pray that He will give you the strength to break free of the things of this world, those things which divide your heart. Then, you need to be ready to release those things. When you do this part of Jeremiah 29:13: "when you search for Me with all your heart," you will be able to see the follow-through of that verse: "then you will seek Me and find Me."
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