Today we will take a brief look at some of the idols of the heart, what I like to call the “odd gods” that work to crowd Jesus out from our lives. Before we embark: I know the words idol and idolatry often conjure up pictures of primitive people worshipping all sorts of things except the One to whom they should be bowing. But make no mistake, in our contemporary and prosperous society we bow down to a great many things smaller than God. We Americans find ourselves living out the truth pronounced about us by Alexis de Tocqueville: “There is a strange melancholy that haunts the inhabitants in the midst of abundance.” There will always be a “strange melancholy” that haunts those who look to, chase after, and attempt to find satisfaction, meaning, and purpose in anything smaller than God.
So . . . have you made anything in your own life more important than Jesus? If you have you have bowed down to an idol—if you have mentally or spiritually given yourself over to an “odd god”—that idol will not only rule your heart, it will shape your life. It will enslave you to it and have you live for it.
We all know about the power contained in these odd gods from personal experience, because whenever we failed to attain them (or lost them after we had attained them), life simply did not seem worth living. And remember, as I have written before regarding idols, they can be good things, really good things that God gives to us as blessings—family, the marriage bed, relationships, children, work, finances, health, recreation, hobbies, church service, etc.—but they have become ultimate things . . . which makes them bad things.
Throughout years of pastoral counseling, it is not uncommon to meet people who were in mad pursuit of really good things that turned into supreme things. Sure, there were those who were chasing after some bad stuff. But, for the most part, the greater the good that was found in the “thing,” the more passionately they pursued it. Why? They falsely assumed that it would meet them in their place of deepest need, satisfying their drive for meaning, purpose, and significance. God will tolerate no rival, nor should He, and He will always take us to the place where these idols leave us wanting, wishing, and often wailing.
Where are the gods you have made for yourselves? Let them come and save you when you are in trouble. (Jeremiah 2:28)
That passage puts our odd gods in their proper perspective, doesn’t it? Every promise our idols make leaves us wanting. They simply cannot deliver and never were meant to deliver on their promises. They promise happiness and deliver despair. They promise contentment and deliver restlessness. They promise freedom and deliver shackles. They promise fulfillment and deliver emptiness. They promise love and deliver loneliness. Only Jesus can deliver—and does deliver—every single time on every single promise. Only Jesus can save us from ourselves and our natural tendency to run toward things smaller than Him, and He does it day after day . . . week after week . . . month after month . . . and year after year.
Whatever captures your heart controls your hope, and whatever controls your hope is your functional savior. If you are hoping to be accepted by the “in” crowd, your station in life has become your functional savior and you will sacrifice everything in order to attain it. If you are hoping for the body you had at 20, your self-image is your functional savior and you will sacrifice everything in order to attain it. In Out of the Saltshaker, Rebecca Pippert writes, “Whatever controls us is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by the people he or she wants to please. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives.”
So . . . let me ask you again: who or what is the Lord of your life?
The One True God, who came down from heaven and went up on a cross for you, is the only God worth bowing to.
I am the Lord your God . . . you shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!